Health and biodiversity Part II: Wild medicine


By |2020-05-06T12:24:54+00:00May 6th, 2020|Biodiversity, Conservation, Essay, Health, Illegal Wildlife Trade, In-Depth|Comments Off on Health and biodiversity Part II: Wild medicine

Enzymes from hot springs, toxins from frogs, and the many, many medicinal uses of plants. Following our piece on zoonotic diseases, we explore how evolution has been a source of medical innovation.

Did you know that a crucial ingredient in the test to diagnose COVID-19 was discovered in a freshwater hot spring?

Actually, it’s even more significant than that. This compound (a type of enzyme named DNA polymerase) has also been used to test other emerging diseases like AIDS and SARS, and is the key ingredient in a technique which underlies modern genetics: the polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

The PCR was developed in the mid-1980s using a DNA polymerase developed from bacteria Thermus aquaticus (named Taq DNA polymerase from T. aquaticus) found in a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. Since then, biotechnology companies have produced a similar