In what could be either very good news or very bad news for our fluffy black and white friends, it's been discovered that panda blood contains an antibiotic compound that's vastly more powerful than anything we've got right now.
Researchers at the Life Sciences College of Nanjing Agricultural University in China have extracted a compound called cathelicidin-AM from the blood of giant pandas. Cathelicidin-AM is what's called a gene-encoded antimicrobial peptide, a natural antibiotic that's produced by a panda's immune cells. Testing has shown that cathelicidin-AM can kill even drug resistant strains of bacteria and fungi, and it can do in one hour what conventional antibiotics can barely do in six, without causing nearly as much resistance.
Cathelicidin-AM could get turned into a drug, or it could get turned into a surface sanitizier. Either way, the researchers say that they're not done with the panda genome yet, and other secret drugs may be awaiting discovery, like whatever it is that makes pandas have a non-stop craving for bamboo.
As far as the pandas themselves go, here's the good news: the fact that panda blood is now useful for humans means that pandas themselves are useful for humans for things besides modeling for WWF logos and stuffed animals, and the hope is that it'll make it easier to keep them from going extinct.
And here's the bad news: this stuff comes from the blood of pandas, so getting it out involves stabbing a panda and sucking out some of its juices. My guess is that pandas don't like this very much. It's a good thing that scientists have just about figured out how to synthesize cathelicin-AM, because otherwise, we're in for some very sad pandas.