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Last updated at 15:21 BST, Friday, 27 August 2010

Frog antibiotics

Summary

30 August 2010

Scientists trying to develop a new range of drugs are starting to study a creature which has been around for over 200 million years. They're working on a new research project which will try to replicate the natural defences of frogs.

Reporter:
Pallab Ghosh

A frog

Frogs might help develop new medicines

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Frogs protect themselves by secreting chemicals that kill germs on their skin. So the theory is that some of these chemicals could be used as antibiotics.

To find out, researchers in the United Arab Emirates asked colleagues across the world to swab any frogs they found and send them their secretions. They received samples from more than six thousand different species and identified more than a hundred germ-killing chemicals.

Because they've not been used to combat human diseases before, it's hoped that they might be able to kill bacteria that had become drug-resistant.

One problem though is that many of these newly-identified chemicals are toxic. So the next step will be to adapt them to make them benign to patients but lethal to bacteria.

The researchers point out that their work highlights the importance of preserving frog diversity. They say that many species whose skin might contain potentially valuable medicinal substances may become extinct soon because of a loss of habitat and water pollution.

Pallab Ghosh, BBC science correspondent

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Vocabulary

secreting

releasing

germs

organisms that cause disease

antibiotics

drugs to cure infection

swab

take a small sample from

combat

fight against

drug-resistant

able to remain unaffected by drugs

toxic

poisonous

benign

safe

frog diversity

a variety of types of frog

extinct

no longer existing