UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering


Professor John Ward Swabs Crocodiles for Bacterial DNA

17 October 2016

Professor Ward’s group go to great lengths to get novel microbial samples for their work. They recently visited a crocodile sanctuary to collect microbiome samples from the mouths of several crocodiles. 

The agar plate at the end of this slide album shows one of the crocodile bacteria secretes a protease that gives a zone of clearing around the colony.

"We are using metagenomics and genome mining to search for novel enzymes from these crocodile microbiome samples," John told us. The aim of the project is to try and find out why bites from crocodiles that do not seriously injure still end up with the victim having to have a limb amputated. Medics are unsure if it is the type or concentration of the bacteria in the croc's mouth that causes limbs to go septic, or if it is the heat or poor medical treatment in the areas where most attacks occur. John and his team are helping provide some initial analysis to support further research around this issue.