Dragon blood and frog slime, nature’s finest cures

19 Apr 2017

The south Indian frog Hydrophylax bahuvistara. Image: Sanil George, Jessica Shartouny

In the ongoing battle against the threat of bacterial disease, Komodo dragon blood could hold the key. As for influenza? Frogs have you covered.

Frogs enjoy an abundance of slime on their skin, though, in nature, not all slime is created equally.

That is because certain south Indian frogs, brightly coloured and bouncy-legged, have a particular slimy substance that researchers are quite excited about.

According to a new study published in the aptly named journal Immunity, this slime can kill the H1 variety of the influenza virus.


Frogs’ skin has long been known to secrete peptides as a defence mechanism, with several poisonous frogs the stuff of children’s nightmares. However, these peptides also represent a resource for antiviral drug discovery, according to researchers.

Anti-flu peptides could become handy when vaccines are unavailable, for example, in the case of a new pandemic strain, or when circulating strains become resistant to current drugs, claims Joshy Jacob, one of the authors of the study.

Called urumin, the latest discovery was found in skin secretions from the Indian frog Hydrophylax bahuvistara.

Some antibacterial peptides work by punching holes in cell membranes, and are thus toxic to mammalian cells, but urumin is not. Instead, it appears to only disrupt the integrity of the flu virus, Jacob said.

All hail Komodo dragons! Image: Sergey Uryadnikov/Shutterstock

All hail Komodo dragons! Image: Sergey Uryadnikov/Shutterstock


In March, a fascinating study into Komodo dragon blood found numerous elements that could result in better antibiotics for humans.

48 never-before-seen antimicrobial peptides were found in the blood, some of which work exceedingly well against pathogenic bacteria.

The study painted a bright future for scientists working to fight against antibiotic-resistant bugs, a major concern for future healthcare. That future has just been added to, with a new study published in Biofilms and Microbiomes advancing those discoveries considerably.

The saliva of the Komodo dragon includes dangerous bacteria, some of which could cause infections in humans, or other animals. This saliva has no negative impact on the dragons – something scientists sought to find out a little more about.

“Investigators therefore hypothesised that proteins in the dragon’s saliva or blood might provide immunity,” reads the new paper.

One of the dozens of peptides discovered, now called DRGN-1, could provide just that.

Mother Nature is looking out for us humans once again.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic