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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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