Sloth fur may cure breast cancer and other diseases

Sloth fur may cure breast cancer and other diseases

Jan 23, 2014

Sloths already do plenty for us humans just by being themselves (giving us a potent metaphor to insult our peers, making us never feel lazy by contrast, etc). But a new study suggests that sloth fur may actually hold a key to developing new drugs that will fight all kinds of disease in humans, from breast cancer to malaria.

Popular Science reports on a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE:

The chemicals excreted by microbes in sloth fur had potent activity against a host of human pathogens, and even breast cancer cells, and possess anti-malaria and antibacterial properties. The study found that chemicals isolated from fungi in three-toed sloths were deadly for parasites that cause malaria.

PopSci says the scientists describe the microbes specific to sloth fur as a “potential goldmine for drug discovery.”

The chemicals excreted by sloth fun microbes “suggests a potentially new mode of action” in the scope and effectiveness with which they attack bacteria. For instance they were found to effectively fight Chagas disease. Only a few man-made chemicals have been discovered to fight Chagas, and they usually have prohibitively negative side effects.

The sloth microbe chemicals were also discovered to exact a “strong activity” on human breast cancer cells.

Stranger things have happened. In 1943 the best source for mass producing penicillin was discovered in a moldy cantalope in a market in Peoria, Illinois.

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