Giant pandas, the poster-child for wildlife conservation, may have earned itself a reason for eluding extinction.
According to the Telegraph, scientists in China have discovered that the animals produce a powerful antibiotic in their bloodstream that kills bacteria and fungi.
Dr Xiuwen Yan, who led the research at the Life Sciences College of Nanjing Agricultural University in China, hopes that the antibiotic can be used to create new treatments against drug resistant superbugs.
There are about 1,600 pandas in the wild, and attempts to increase their numbers have been fraught with financial and logistical problems. Pandas are threatened by habitat loss, a slow breeding rate and reports indicate that climate change may be diminishing the amount of Chinese bamboo – their favorite snack.
Millions of dollars are spent each year to breed pandas, and many argue that the money spent on expensive artificial insemination could be better spent on other endangered species.
The news that the bears produce antimicrobial agents that kill bacteria six times as fast as other antibiotics, could be their saving grace.
Researchers hope to develop the substance either as a new drug, or as an antiseptic for cleaning surfaces and utensils, the Telegraph reported.