Saving the komodo . . . saving ourselves

Had the komodo dragon been another animal that peacefully grazed on the African savanah or the Asian steppes then it would undoubtedly have been extinguished — along with the woolly mammoth and many other species — by early man with his atlatl and, later, bow-and-arrow.

It is fortunate indeed that the komodo survived because it may be the answer to one of the most serious problems now facing man — the resistance of many bacteria, such as tuberculosis, to the limited range of anti-biotics that biologists have been able to develop so far. It now turns out that the bloodstream of the komodo is awash with venal bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, but these are kept to ultra-microscopic unharmful quantities by a supervisory body of at least 28 special peptides which act as if they were anti-biotics.

If one dragon bites another then the recipient can quickly make whatever special peptides it needs to counter the bacteria entering its blood-stream. However, if it bites a prey then the latter will either die almost instantly or within an hour or two, having no ability to resist the fast multiplying bacteria in its blood-stream.

We’ve saved this komodo dragon but have there been other ‘komodos’ we haven’t been able to — not realizing at the time of the benefits it might have had. We might never know.

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