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(NECN/NBC News: Britney Glaser) - In the bayous of Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas, researchers have discovered a potential medicinal breakthrough … from alligators.
Alligator blood is showing to be a potent antibiotic in lab testing.
These keepers of the bayou are known for their tenacity. But behind the alligator's piercing eyes and sharp teeth is an immune system that is as ferocious as the primitive creature.
"They've really put a lot of selective pressure on themselves to develop this tremendous immune system that we've been studying the past ten or twelve years," said biochemistry professor Mark Merchant.
Merchant handles gators like they're his own children. He's been bitten and scarred, but never deterred in his quest to prove what it is that makes gators survive and thrive, even in bacteria and fungi-filled environments.
To get to the source of the immune response, Merchant and his students started by studying the alligator's blood.
There are over 100 crocodilians just in the research space. Most of them have had their blood drawn before for this immune system study. Their blood is drawn from the neck.
In the immune system, the white blood cells are the infection fighters. For this experiment, Merchant isolated the gators’ white blood cells and extracted the active proteins.
The gator blood has shown it can kill E. coli, salmonella, strep and staph infections. It has even been shown to kill a strain of HIV.
The mission is to determine the exact structure of the potent proteins.
Do not try your own home remedy. Raw alligator blood could make you very sick.
But Merchant said he believes the alligator blood serum could be synthetically made in a pharmacological setting and on store shelves within the next 10 years.