UPDATED: Frog skin secretions: icky but potent new anti-bacterials?

In research against superbugs, mice may be passé, but frogs are all the rage.

University of Melbourne scientists are looking at synthetic antimicrobial skin secretions of the Australian greened-eyed and growling grass frogs to look for new ways to beat back antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

And they'll analyze the secretions with a powerful tool--neutrons generated from Australia's only nuclear reactor, at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization. The team will use the country's OPAL reactor and neutron reflectometer to help establish what peptide attacks bacteria cell membranes, why they work and how they kill bacterial cells.

It turns out that icky sticky stuff on frogs offers a great way to study antibiotic-resistant bacteria, scientists explain, because peptides secreted from their skin already fight a number of bacteria, such as Staphylococcus. And bacteria-resistant peptides that can destroy bacterial membranes could lead to new antibiotic treatments, say lead researcher Frances Separovic of the University of Melbourne's School of Chemistry.

Already, the researchers say, they've identified a number of peptides from Australian tree frogs (their skin glands). And those compounds showed some pretty powerful antibacterial properties. By looking at these and other frog-related peptides, the scientists say they hope to boost their use and power as targeted antibiotic treatments.

We'd like to point out that this researcher Michael Zazloff pursued similar research with frogs in the 1980s.  Zazloff was at the time an NIH researcher in Bethesda. It is unclear if the Melbourne team is pursuing a new approach, or has "rediscovered" a similar path.

Editor's Note: A reference to previous frog-related anti-biotic research by Michael Zazloff has been added to this story.

- here's the university's release