Could Florida’s signature reptile be a natural germ destroyer?

Sophisticated germ fighters found in alligator blood may help soldiers on the battlefield fend off infection, according to new research by George Mason University.

The government-funded study took place at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park over the past four years.

"Alligators live in a pretty inhospitable environment, “ said Barney Bishop, one of the lead researchers. “Many of them live in stagnant water where there is lots of bacteria. And while they are predators, they also eat carrion, so they must have a robust immune system to fend off infection in these situations."

The researchers were able to isolate those infection-fighting peptides in the alligator blood. The hope is to use alligator blood as battlefield medicine. Soldiers wounded in battle are vulnerable to bacteria, such as MRSA. Alligators have a natural resistance.

“Often times there are blast wounds or other kinds of wounds that get badly infected by multiple kinds of bacteria,“ researcher Monique Van Hoek said. “Anti-microbial peptides, especially these that we found from the alligators are able to kill many kinds of bacteria.”

Researchers say alligator blood also holds promise for civilian hospitals that struggle to fight antibiotic resistant bacteria.