Crocodiles are social animals that hunt prey together and share basking spots. However, the saltwater crocodile is far more territorial and does not tolerate other crocodiles within its territory. Hence, it is common for saltwater crocodiles to engage in violent territorial behaviour, fending off rivals for prime hunting spots and mates.
As a result, saltwater crocodiles tend to acquire nasty wounds from such encounters. Serious wounds are also inflicted due to predator-prey interaction. From an immunological perspective, exposure of an open wound to unhygienic conditions can lead to infection. In the wild, this means the difference between life and death.
However, biologists have observed that most crocodilians with afflicted wounds tend to heal quickly, despite living in brackish waters infested with bacteria. This is not uncommon, though, as most other wild animals also exhibit varying degrees of resistance to bacterial infection. Crocodiles, however, are seen to be particularly resistant to more strains of pathogenic bacteria.
In one experiment, samples of blood were obtained from crocodiles living in swamp water. Concentrated crocodile serum, along with human serum, were exposed 23 pathogenic strains of bacteria. The human serum was able to eliminate 8 of the 23 strains, while the crocodile serum was able to kill all the strains. What is more interesting is that crocodile blood was able to kill the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA strain). This particular bacteria is considered a super-bug because it is incredibly resistant to most antibiotics.
In another experiment, scientists introduced the Human Immunodeficiency Virus in human cells, in the presence of crocodile blood. The blood had significantly suppressed the effects of HIV in the sample. This effect has been attributed to the presence of specific proteins analogous to histones in humans, as well as certain other types of enzymes in the crocodile blood. These promising results have enabled scientists to synthesize proteins in crocodile blood, potentially developing an eventual cure for AIDS.
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