Just because humans have made it to the top of the food chain doesn't mean we don't wet our pants every time a spider looks at us funny. Deep down we know that we're just clawless animals, and if left alone in a room with anything not cute enough for an animated gif, we'd exit via human-shaped hole in the wall. Or the door. It could go either way. That's why it's important to stop every once in a while and remind ourselves that the creatures in nature's nightmarish cavalcade of horrors are saving our lives every day.
For instance ...
5Crocodile Blood Might Kill Deadly MRSA Bacteria ... and HIV
Have you ever seen a crocodile apply antibiotics to his wounds after a gang fight? No, probably not, because their arms are so short. But you also never see crocodiles die of infection despite suffering horrific gashes while living in a bacterial soup of swamp water. After a major battle, crocs walk/swim away, heal up and go about their usual routine of pretending to be logs and floating in filth. This is why scientists started studying crocodile immune systems -- we've got people losing limbs to bacteria up here in the people world, so why aren't crocodiles dying of infection while living in an ecosystem experts refer to as "nature's toilet"?
An entire world, sauteed in turds.
So scientists grabbed some crocodile blood and started exposing it to different infections, including HIV (if you've ever met a crocodile with AIDS, that's some sad shit). What the researchers found was that while human blood could kill eight of the 23 strains of bacteria they attacked it with, alligator blood killed all 23, including antibiotic-resistant MRSA. From that point forward, the scientists renamed croc blood Muhammad Ali and human blood Screech Powers.
It turns out the crocodile's whole immune system is organized differently from ours. Instead of getting too technical about how it works, we'll let Australian scientist Adam Britton explain it: "The crocodile has an immune system which attaches to bacteria and tears it apart and it explodes." Fuck yes.
Here's an electron microscope shot of it in action.
So it is hoped that the croc blood proteins can be developed into drugs for humans (drugs that we hope will have pictures of crocodiles on the label), since those tests revealed that crocodile serum could explode lots of bacteria that plague humans, even those superbugs that are resistant to penicillin.
And yes, later tests showed it was also effective at killing HIV. There is a lot more testing to be done, so don't go crazy yet. It will take years just to make sure pumping a sick person full of crocodile blood doesn't turn them into Killer Croc.
Or if we have a say, ensure that it does.
4Cobra Venom Might Stop HIV and MS
The greatest movie villains of all time weren't messing around when they named themselves after the cobra and the kai. Cobras are the devil. Did you know they spit venom at your eyes, the second worst place you can get snake venom? If you get enough of it in your system, get ready to enjoy pain, necrosis and maybe even paralysis, as the toxins bind themselves to neuromuscular junctions, blocking communication between the central nervous system and your muscles. Because mercy is for the weak, and an enemy deserves no mercy.
So how in the hell could that ever make a person's life better in any way?
Maybe if you survive it, you can use it as a pickup line or something.
Well, scientists think that part of what makes venom so nasty is that it suppresses the body's ability to fight back by hampering the immune system's normal healing process. So if you had a disease caused by an overactive immune system, a chemical that slows it down would be the proverbial vigilante crime fighter keeping a corrupt police department in check. This may be why in India cobra venom is considered an arthritis cure -- arthritis is caused by the body's own immune system keeping the sufferer's joints chronically inflamed.
So then you start looking at other even more horrible diseases, like multiple sclerosis and HIV -- both of which involve royal cock-ups in the immune system. Although science is still not sure of what causes multiple sclerosis, we know that for some reason the immune system begins to destroy the protective layer around the body's neurons, which sucks because neurons are the metaphorical heart of the nervous system. It's kind of like shooting through your own shields in Space Invaders. Only instead of dropping your head in shame and running out of the arcade because it's 1982 and you're in an arcade for some reason, you end up with scars that keep your brain from communicating with the rest of the nervous system.
In theory, snake venom could keep that self-destructive process in check, if only it wasn't, you know, incredibly toxic (because it's snake venom). Fortunately, a company has patented a process for removing the paralyzing part of the venom, and what's left acts as a kind of regulator to the immune system's Wild West anarchy, halting the development of MS in 90 percent of the rats treated for rat MS.
Oh, and we need to talk about HIV for the second entry in a row, because research shows that cobrotoxin (the stuff in cobra venom, if you couldn't figure that out from the name) also might stop HIV. The way the venom goes to work on the immune system kind of shoulders HIV out of the way (they latch onto the same receptors in the cells). So here's to a future where after a positive HIV test, the doctors immediately start pumping you full of snake venom and crocodile blood.
"... she said she was clean, but I figure a precautionary bite couldn't hurt."