New antibiotics might come from the brains of cockroaches

British researchers discover that the brains of cockroaches have molecules that are toxic to bacteria. Will roach brains be served up as a new type of antibiotics?
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

My first instinct around cockroaches have been to kill them with a paper towel. But apparently, their brains have antibiotic properties that might be a gold mine for drug companies.

British researchers discovered that molecules found inside the brain tissues of insects can fend off unwanted bacteria.

"We hope that these molecules could eventually be developed into treatments for E. coli and Meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections that are increasingly resistant to current drugs," University of Nottingham's Simon Lee said in a statement.

The brain tissue killed off 90 percent of the E. coli and MRSA. Remarkably, the healthy human cells were left alone.

"Also, these new antibiotics could potentially provide alternatives to currently available drugs that may be effective but have serious and unwanted side effects," he said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospital-acquired MRSA infections kill 15,000 patients a year and sicken 90,000 more.

Doctors are scrambling for drugs to knock out the infections, but their best line of defense sometimes fails against the strong superbugs.

The fact that medical tourists are picking up an antibiotic resistant gene might be just the tip of the iceberg. Some experts are warning that the end of the antibiotic era is near.

That's why looking at creatures that live in unsanitary conditions makes sense. The cockroach is evolutionarily built to survive really gross conditions.

Related on SmartPlanet:

Photo: thefixer/ flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Editorial standards