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Frogs Fight Disease

June 10, 2009

Some frogs produce chemicals that could be used to treat human diseases.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
First aid from frogs…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Frogs and other amphibians produce chemicals in their skin that ward off predators and fight disease. Immunologist Louise Rawlins-Smith of Vanderbilt University says understanding how these compounds work could lead to breakthroughs in human medicine.

LOUISE RAWLINS SMITH (Vanderbilt University):
We work on a group of molecules that are called antimicrobial peptides. We discovered that some of them are not only protective for frogs but they might be useful for humans. They’re small compounds in the frogs’ skin that can kill bacteria, can kill viruses, and one of the viruses that some of the peptides destroy is the HIV virus.

HIRSHON
But she says amphibians are facing a worldwide extinction crisis.

LOUISE RAWLINS SMITH:
If we lose the amphibians because of extinction we’ll miss that opportunity to learn about those possible products that are in frog skin.

HIRSHON:
I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.