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

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid