Many animals are good at healing us emotionally, like capybaras and tiny kittens in tiny hats. Regrettably though, if we got really sick, no amount of golden retriever puppies could do anything to help us. Komodo dragons, on the other hand, might not be “adorable” in the traditional sense, but they could save us from untimely death.
Komodos are the largest lizards in the world. These scaly, flappy sacks live on five islands in Indonesia, eating basically whatever the hell they want. One of the reasons komodos are such effective hunters is because of their saliva, which is teeming with at least 57 kinds of bacteria. While this spit is absolutely toxic to most animals, komodos are totally unaffected by it. In fact, the cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs) found in komodo dragon blood have antibacterial properties that not only seem to protect komodos from their deadly spit, but could possibly help humans combat illness.
The American Chemical Society just released a neat Reactions video explaining the whole thing, in addition to other useful chemicals from sponges and horseshoe crabs.
Back in February, a team of researchers from George Mason University published a study analyzing CAMPs in komodo dragon blood. The group was able to successfully sequence 48 potential CAMPs, from which eight were selected and tested against human pathogens Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus (a staph infection). Seven of the komodo peptides were very effective in fighting both bacteria, but the eighth was only able to combat P. aeruginosa. Still, not too shabby.
While the results are promising, there’s so much more research that needs to be done. Komodo dragon blood won’t give you X-Men powers, or even cure the common cold. And while they just might save your life one day, if you happen to see a komodo dragon in the street, the best thing to do is still to run—fast.