A chemical found in the saliva of Siberian brown bears may one day be used to battle a drug-resistant bacteria associated with human skin infections.

A team composed of researchers from institutions throughout both the United States and Russia has discovered that a chemical found in the saliva of the Siberian brown bear can kill Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

Found in Mongolia, northern parts of China and as its name suggests, Siberia, the Siberian brown bear lives on a mostly vegetarian diet, though will occasionally kill and eat elk, caribou and fish, thereby impacting their microbiome.

To explore the microbiome of the Siberian brown bear, the research team captured specimens from a forested region of Siberia and collected saliva swabs from them. Using a state-of-the-art screening technique, the researchers were able to identify organisms and chemicals found in the saliva samples.

Most notably, the team found traces of Bacillus pumilus (which produces an antibiotic chemical called amicoumacin A) in the saliva, which led researchers to investigate how that chemical specifically fights the S. aureus bacteria. The impact of finding a naturally-occurring chemical capable of fighting this bacteria would be significant, according to researchers.

The research team will continue to study the brown bear biome.

The research is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com