News / Health

Frogs Could Provide Big Leap in Antibiotics

Scientists have discovered that different species of frogs produce potent cocktails of antibiotics. (Richard Bartz)
Scientists have discovered that different species of frogs produce potent cocktails of antibiotics. (Richard Bartz)
A bit of old Russian folk wisdom could produce a crop of new antibiotics.

With drug-resistant bacteria a growing public health threat worldwide, a type of frog Russians have used to keep milk fresh could provide a fresh source of germ fighters.

Moscow State University chemist Albert Lebedev grew up in a rural part of Russia, where many people kept their own cows. In the days before refrigeration, it was a challenge to keep milk from spoiling.

So people enlisted the help of the local amphibians.

“[For] small portions of milk to drink, they used to put [a] frog inside," he says. "A small frog over there could prevent the milk from being spoiled.”

It turns out that putting a frog in your milk is not as crazy as it might sound.

Frog surgery

To explain, let’s go back about 25 years, to another surprising discovery about amphibians.

The eggs of African horned frogs are a popular tool for scientists studying the innermost workings of cells. In the late 1980s, Michael Zasloff was surgically removing frog ovaries for his research at the National Institutes of Health.

Zasloff noticed that when he put the frogs back in their slimy aquarium homes, without the benefit of antibiotics, “The frogs healed after surgery without exhibiting any signs of infection or inflammation.”

Zasloff and his colleagues discovered that’s because the skin of the African horned frog produces unique anti-microbial compounds.

Potent cocktails

Then they discovered that other species of frog also produce potent cocktails of antibiotics.

“What is amazing is that no two frogs have the same cocktail," he says. "They’re all different, and all beautifully tuned to deal with the microbes that these animals face.”

And for frogs, dealing with microbes on their skin is a matter of life and death. They breathe and drink through their skin, and spend much of their time in waters teeming with microbes.

Moscow State University’s Albert Lebedev says the more scientists looked, the more kinds of chemicals they found coming out of the skins of amphibians.

“They can be antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, antitumor, neuropeptides, analgesics," and so on," he says. "So, a lot of various functions.”

Milk preservatives

All of these functions are performed by chemicals known as peptides.

When Lebedev studied the frogs Russians used to keep their milk fresh, “We found something like 80 peptides," he says.

And each one is apparently responsible for something.

"We don’t know now exactly what every peptide is for,” he says, "but they do know that several of them kill Staph bacteria, a kind of germ responsible for serious skin infections; and Salmonella, which causes food poisoning.

That would explain why a frog in the milk keeps it fresh.

Lebedev says the frog chemicals work at very, very low concentrations, “which is fantastic. This is the scale of activity of very potent antibiotics.”

It will be years before these antibiotics find their way into doctor’s offices and hospitals, if they ever do. Lebedev says developing peptide drugs is expensive and difficult.

But some are in development. Michael Zasloff, now at Georgetown University, has been working on a drug to treat diabetic foot infections, based on one of the African horned frog peptides.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Head: Breach Won't Happen Again

Julia Pierson tells a House panel investigating a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: The Physics Police
January 10, 2013 3:58 AM
Frogs were never used by Russians or any other sane person to keep milk fresh. The skins contain antibiotics, but their bloated, drown corpses and deification do nothing to preserve the freshness of milk! Read more: http://thephysicspolice.blogspot.com/2013/01/myth-russian-milk-frogging.html


by: Lynne Carmody from: Michigan
January 03, 2013 12:34 PM
I want to know why it will take so long? Over and over again we are told about great possibilities for drugs... but it will take years and years to develop. If they have so much potential fast track them somehow!!!!!! I know the testing,etc.etc.etc. But get realistic, work out of the system. It is getting so tiresome. There must be a better way.

In Response

by: Carole from: Connecticut
January 04, 2013 2:14 PM
Don't worry - the frogs aren't surviving the rise in the planet's temperature so they won't be around long enough to provide a "cure" for humanity's woes, anyway. Maybe we need to figure out a different way to live, without the need for drugs, period.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid