October 12, 2012

The Froggy Medicine Factory


The monkey frogs of the Tambopata rainforest are literally covered in medical secrets yet to be discovered.

I think we caught this monkey frog on a bad day.
Maybe she'd cheer up if she knew she could save lives.

What makes monkey frogs remarkeable is their incredible array of chemicals that exist on the slim that covers their skin- as of 2009, there were over 200 unique peptides discovered in that goo. These chemicals likely evolved to provide them with protection from predators, illnesses, and drying out, however a multitude of them have proven to have a lot of potentially useful purposes for humans, too.

The monkey frogs, tree frogs of the genus Phyllomedusa, are made up of about a dozen species here in southern Peru. They are called monkey frogs because they tend to crawl along a branch like a monkey, rather than hop like a frog.

New peptides are being found all the time on these frogs, and with a variety of functions. Take, for instance, the frog Phyllomedusa bicolor, the giant monkey frog. One study looked at its use by the indigenous in the Amazon. They found that placing the frog on burnt skin causes an "increase in physical strength, heightening of senses, resistance to hunger and thirst, exalted capacity to face stress situations." The drug component that causes that even remarkably makes up 7% of the frog's weight! 

Forget spiderman, I think frogman is more likely to fight crime.

Not just to become a superfrog-like.

Amplectant Phyllomedusa camba.
There are a multitude of other studies on their antimicrobial properties, here and here are good examples, and in 2012 alone I found 56 studies with the terms "Phyllomedusa skin" and "drug" included, so it is an very active area of biomedical research.

As far as I know, the compounds are all still in testing phase and not yet used by humans for medical purposes. However, they doesn't mean humans haven't found a use for them, legal or not- one monkey frog caused a scandal because it was being used to dope up race horses, making them both excited and numb.

So, while we can look forward to seeing what interesting and useful compounds come out next, please don't take this as an excuse to try using a monkey frog drug recreationally- the compounds are poisons, afterall, and we don't yet know the long term effects or short term risks. It really is extremely dangerous.

I do know one person who 'doped up' on an unknown monkey frog and claims he felt he was dying then thought he turned into a frog. For all we know that frog condition could be a permanent one, so don't do it!


  1. I heard that some of the doctors in the 24 hour urgent care phoenix is also involve in doing some researches about acquiring sustainable medicines to some animal's part. Who knows, perhaps we could see some good cure for the most severe diseases.

  2. Very interesting research. Hope frogs of the Tambopata rainforest being literally covered in medical secrets would provide a great impact for this further research. Thanks for sharing with us.Kevin Right


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