Researchers have isolated1 complex organic compounds known as exopolymers from bacteria found in deserts. These compounds can speed up blood clotting in patients with traumatic injuries and can fight bacteria known to infect wounds.

Although synthetic drugs are available for reducing blood loss, natural blood-clotting agents are preferable as they have fewer side effects. The researchers isolated exopolymers from four desert cyanobacteria (Tolypothrix tenuis and three species of Anabaena), and then tested their efficacy as blood-clotting agents.

The researchers found that the exopolymers reduced the partial thromboplastin time (a measure of how long blood takes to clot) and the prothrombin time (a measure of how long blood plasma takes to clot).

In addition to accelerating blood clotting, the exopolymers absorb water. They are non-toxic and biodegradable. Furthermore, the exopolymers exhibit antibacterial activity against three bacteria: Escherichia coli , Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus licheniformis. The exopolymers mainly consist of carbohydrate, protein, uronic acid and suphate.

The researchers say that the exopolymer-producing bacteria could be rapidly grown over a simple mineral medium and are potentially a novel source of affordable blood-clotting agents for treating patients with traumatic wounds in underdeveloped and developing countries.