U. NOTTINGHAM (UK)—Cockroaches may be more of a health benefit than a hazard, according to a new study.

Powerful antibiotic properties have been found in the brains of cockroaches and locusts which could lead to novel treatments for multi-drug resistant bacterial infections.

Scientists say the tissues of the brain and nervous system of the insects were able to kill more than 90 percent of MRSA and pathogenic Escherichia coli, without harming human cells.

“We hope that these molecules could eventually be developed into treatments for E. coli and MRSA infections that are increasingly resistant to current drugs,” says Simon Lee, a post graduate researcher at the University of Nottingham.

“These new antibiotics could potentially provide alternatives to currently available drugs that may be effective but have serious and unwanted side effects.”

Nine different molecules in the insect tissues that were toxic to bacteria have been identified.

“Superbugs such as MRSA have developed resistance against the chemotherapeutic artillery that we throw at them,” says Naveed Khan, associate professor of molecular microbiology who is supervising Lee’s work.

“They have shown the ability to cause untreatable infections, and have become a major threat in our fight against bacterial diseases. Thus, there is a continuous need to find additional sources of novel antimicrobials to confront this menace.”

Khan and his team are studying the specific properties of the antibacterial molecules against a variety of emerging superbugs, including Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas, and Burkholderia.

“Insects often live in unsanitary and unhygienic environments where they encounter many different types of bacteria,” Lee says. “It is therefore logical that they have developed ways of protecting themselves against micro-organisms.”

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