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Critter Chemicals Roundup

December 30, 2011

Some of the most potent antibiotics and insecticides come from animals. Researchers have identified some promising new candidates, derived from ants and frogs.



New drugs from smelly frogs. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The skin of a frog is moist and inviting to bacteria and fungi. So it’s not surprising that frogs secrete a host of microbe-fighting compounds. Now a team from China has looked into odorous frogs, a group of frogs that smell like rotten fish, and found that they are a treasure trove of antibiotic compounds. The team isolated over 700 microbe-fighting proteins from the frogs, some that kill germs in ways new to science. The goal is to use the proteins to develop new drugs to fight infectious disease.

In other news, French researchers have discovered that a species of African ant produces a venom so potent that it kills termites they don’t even sting. The ants spray the venom from a distance of about two body lengths. The ant venom could be the basis of more potent insecticides. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.