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Kiwis Trying to Kill Potential Cancer Cure

Officials in New Zealand want to capture and kill, as illegal pests, imported Australian frogs, while in South Australia doctor's have discovered frogs may be the key to curing a wide-range of human ills. It's a strange world. John Howard reports.

Ministry of Agriculture and Department of Conservation officials hunting the illegal Australian eastern banjo frog in the Waitakere Ranges, have appealed to the public to help them trap and eradicate the pest.

Ilegal, they cry! - pose a serious threat, they cry! But on the very same day our officials made their public appeal to help eradicate this frog, South Australian researcher, Dr Paul Wabnitz, who has a doctorate in chemistry, announced that he has discovered dozens of rare chemicals in the skins of Australian frogs.

The chemicals, known as peptides, are now being investigated by the Anti-Cancer Institute in Washington DC, and some have already been found to fight tumor cells.

Doesn't it make you spit. Here we are wanting to kill the pesky little bugger's as illegal pests, while just a few hours away significant discoveries are being made about the frogs we are trying to eradicate

Dr Wabnitz, who was head-hunted by US pharamceuticals giant Parke-Davis, said his work had unearthed up to 70 peptides from the skin of various frogs.

About 60 percent of them had shown biological activity when tested in the US, while 70 percent of those were peptides previously unknown to science. One peptide has been linked to a possible treatment for strokes.

Dr Wabnitz said the frogs literally sweated the chemicals from their skin as a defence mechanism against the myriad of biological threats they faced in their natural environment.

"Their skins are a chemical warehouse. They have such thin skin, but such strong protection - they need these chemicals," he said. He added that he and his collegaues had been able to stimulate the frogs to produce the chemicals he required.

"Frogs are the most abundant source of natural medicinal chemicals," Dr Wabnitz said.

"We can isolate 50 peptides from one secretion - other sources such as plants have just a few. The number of commercially viable compounds we've been able to find is amzing," he said.

But in New Zealand - they're just pests, lets kill 'em. And have we ever done a survey of exactly what medicinal qualities might be in our native plants - and frogs?

ends


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