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Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are poised to become a major health threat in the coming decades, but now it turns out that new antibiotics might have been inside us all along. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania used a “search” algorithm to find dozens of potential antimicrobial peptides in the human body.

As ever-evolving bacteria develop resistance to our drugs, previously treatable infections become dangerous again – in fact, it’s predicted that these “superbugs” could cause 10 million deaths per year by 2050. With our last line of defense already beginning to fail, scientists are searching for new drugs in a variety of places, including green tea, tobacco flowers, human breast milk, rattlesnake venom, frog skin, fungi, and even platypus milk.

For the new study, researchers searched for new antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) in the human body. Like a search function for finding specific words or phrases in a document, they used an algorithm to find peptides with antimicrobial properties within the human proteome, the complete library of proteins produced in the body.

By Michael Irving

The research was published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Source: University of Pennsylvania