Infection Resistant Costa Rican Sloth Antibiotics Offer Hope For Human Medicine

According to a study published in the journal Environmental Microbiology, infection-resistant sloths in Costa Rica may offer hope for human medicine by providing new sources of antibiotics.

The fur of Costa Rican sloths appears to harbor antibiotic-producing bacteria that scientists hope may hold a solution to the growing problem of “superbugs” resistant to humanity’s dwindling arsenal of drugs.

Sloth fur, research has found, hosts bustling communities of insects, algae, fungi and bacteria, among other microbes, some of which could pose disease risk.

Yet, experts say, the famously slow-moving mammals appear to be surprisingly infection-proof.

“If you look at the sloth’s fur, you see movement: you see moths, you see different types of insects… a very extensive habitat,” Max Chavarria, a researcher at the University of Costa Rica, told AFP.

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“Obviously when there is co-existence of many types of organisms, there must also be systems that control them,” he said.

Chavarria and a team took fur samples from Costa Rican two- and three-toed sloths to examine what that control system could be.

They found the possible existence of antibiotic-producing bacteria that “makes it possible to control the proliferation of potentially pathogenic bacteria… or inhibit other competitors” such as fungi, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Microbiology.

– ‘No infection’ –

The sloth is a national symbol in laid back Costa Rica, and a major tourist attraction for the Central American country.

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