Man’s Best Friends: Natural Antimicrobials, Featuring the Giant Panda

By Karin Krisher

In light of the giant news that giant panda blood contains peptides that act as potent antibiotics, we’re showing off the other members of our natural world who contribute antimicrobial blood or secretions to the fight against human-attacking superbugs. Here are our favorite warriors:

Giant Panda

Would you expect any different? This news is amazing! A compound called cathelicidin-AM flows in their blood, but we don’t need to access it through holding these guys captive. Instead, scientists have figured out how to synthesize it for human use. Cathelicidin-AM can kill some bacteria in one-sixth the time it takes other common antibiotics!



Here’s another cool one. Not only can these yucky buggies supposedly survive a nuclear holocaust, but their central nervous system tissues contain powerful antibacterial molecules that can help us kill deadly bugs like MRSA and bacteria like E. coli.  Locust brains, too, contain some of these molecules. Thanks, little pals!


Cathelicidin-AM is closely related to K9CATH, or the cathelicidin peptide produced by dogs. Synthetic K9CATH shows broad antimicrobial activity, including working against listeria, E. coli and Salmonella, which tend to be a big part of our bacterial footprints. K9CATH is the first peptide of this sort to be identified in carnivores. That’s pretty cool. (Good work, dogs.)


Yep. Snail sludge is well-known for its antimicrobial properties. For decades it’s been used for burn treatment, and today, many cosmetic companies sell snail extract as an anti-wrinkle cream and skin treatment because it also contains collagen, elastin and vitamin E.



Some amphibians secrete poisonous compounds that kill humans. Some secrete poisonous compounds that kill bacteria. (Knowing the difference could be beneficial if you’re ever lost in the Amazon.) Click on the link above to find out about the peptides and why Russian tradition combined frogs and milk.

The natural world features hidden cool facts everywhere, even in a panda’s bloodstream. Did we miss any cool antibiotic animals? Tell us about them on our Facebook page! Which is your favorite?