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Squid goo and salamander mucus – although it may sound unconventional or just straight-up gross, these two things could hold the solution for creating novel antibiotics and antifungal drugs.
Every mother is familiar with the amount of work that goes into taking care of a baby. Constant attention and care are required for the survival and development of the baby during its first years. Likewise, in nature, mothers are tasked with protecting their offspring from the forces of life. Some oviparous animals, in particular, have developed unique ways to safeguard their eggs from threats like fungal disease. Oviparous animals are animals that lay eggs with embryonic development occurring outside the body. Birds, amphibians, invertebrates, reptiles, fish, and some mammals fall under this classification. One of the biggest threats of oviparous animals is embryonic pathogens such as fungi. Certain animals like the Hawaiian Bobtail Squid and the Red-backed Salamander have adapted creative techniques to protect their young.
The Hawaiian Bobtail Squid, native to the Pacific Ocean, are cephalopods found in the shallow, coastal waters of Hawaii. Using a specialized organ called the accessory nidamental gland, female squids deposits a jelly on their eggs. The jelly contains a selection of antifungal bacteria of the Rhodobacteraceae and Verrucomicrobia variety which can inhibit the growth of a fungus called Fusarium keratoplasticum – a pathogen threatening Hawaiian Bobtail Squids. Researchers claim that these bacteria are creating antifungal chemicals, some of which have not been discovered before.
Furthermore, multiple studies have revealed cutaneous bacteria of Red-backed salamanders to exhibit antifungal properties. Female salamanders are known to slither around on top of their eggs, maintaining body contact with the eggs throughout the incubation period. Bacteria from the skin of the female salamanders coat the eggs and secrete fungal-fighting compounds. The bacteria were identified to be apart of the Pseudomonas genus.
Antimicrobial resistance is an emerging issue affecting the lives of millions of people around the globe. New types of vaccines and medicine are produced every year to combat resistant strains of bacteria and fungi. With the increasing global population, diseases will soon outnumber the resources, so we have to combat it. Organic compounds found in nature like those produced by the Hawaiian Bobtail Squid and Red-backed Salamander is a potential and novel source for medicine.