They might be known for their tough skin and nasty demeanor, but alligators could be the next big thing in the protection of warfighters. A basic research project managed by Alfred Graziano of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) is looking at new peptides discovered in alligators and other animals, using recent advances in nanoscience, mass spectrometry and molecular biology for the protection of warfighters and civilians from infectious diseases and biothreat agents.
The objective of the project is to develop a new and easy process, called the BioProspector Process, to discover new cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs) from biological samples and then employ the process to identify new potential therapeutics for treating exposure to aerosolized biothreat agents (potentially weaponized for antibiotic resistance) and wounds infected with multi-drug resistant, biofilm-forming bacteria that prevent them from healing.
Eventually, these will form the basis for new, broad-spectrum therapeutics for treating warfighter exposure to aerosolized biothreat agents and wound infections.
The research team at George Mason University led by Drs. Joel Schnur, Barney Bishop, and Monique van Hoek completed a first build of the BioProspector CAMPs discovery process and applied it to the discovery of those new peptides.
Working from sample volumes as small as 100 µL, the team has identified multiple novel alligator peptides that exhibit broad-spectrum antimicrobial effectiveness against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative pathogens, including multidrug resistant strains of E. coli and A. baumanii.
The results of these studies clearly demonstrate the utility and power of the BioProspector CAMPs discovery process. Additionally, they suggest greater CAMPs diversity might exist in vertebrates than originally anticipated, providing a larger pool of potential antimicrobial therapeutic candidates.
Based on this success, their work is now focused on optimizing the discovery process and expanding efforts to identify new and more potent antimicrobial peptides. This basic research project will identify novel CAMPs from American alligators and other animals, helping develop the new, broad-spectrum therapeutics for treating personnel exposed to aerosolized biothreat agents and wound infections.
It is envisioned that CAMPs-based treatments for inhalational exposure to biothreat agents could be administered either in the field or in a medical treatment facility following suspected or diagnosed exposure. In identifying CAMPs for development of wound treatments, select CAMPs are being evaluated for their effectiveness against antibiotic resistant and biofilm-forming bacteria associated with wound infections.
Such CAMPs-based therapeutics developed for the prevention and treatment of wound infections are expected to be delivered topically as salves or sprays or, alternatively, in the form of wound dressings, and will be compatible for use in the field as well as in medical treatment facilities. Thus, this basic
research project has a good potential to translate to real-world benefits to the health and effectiveness of U.S. military personnel.
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s (DTRA) Research and Development (J9) Directorate, Chemical and Biological (CB) Technologies Department, serves as the Joint Science and Technology Office (JSTO) for Chemical and Biological Defense.
Article courtesy of DTRA CB/JSTO, adapted.