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Antibiotics encoded in Neanderthal DNA could help us fight infections

A search of the ancient DNA of Neanderthals and Denisovans has revealed coding for extinct bacteria-killing proteins that we could revive to fight infections

Health 1 December 2022

A recreation of a Neanderthal man

Ancient humans such as Neanderthals had bodily defences against bacteria that might help us treat infections nowadays

SEBASTIAN WILLNOW/DDP/AFP via Getty Images

Reviving extinct antibiotic molecules encoded in the DNA of Neanderthals and Denisovans could provide a new weapon in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

Last year, César de la Fuente at the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues reported on more than 2000 antibiotic peptides encoded by modern human DNA.

Now, de la Fuente and many of the same researchers have identified six more antibiotic peptides encoded in ancient mitochondrial DNA previously extracted …