In terms of where animals fall on the joke spectrum, sloths usually get the raw end of the deal—probably because there’s a sin named after them. They’re not just an adorable internet sensation anymore, though: Turns out their fur just might hold the key to curing cancer.
It’s not the fur itself, so don’t expect to rub a sloth on yourself and stay cancer-free like it’s some kind of spell from a cute version of American Horror Story. In fact, it is the chemicals excreted by microbes in the sloth’s fur that could fight a number of human diseases, including breast cancer.
Popular Science reported on a study examining the noble sloth’s fur, saying that it could fight “a host of human pathogens”:
“The chemicals excreted by microbes in sloth fur had potent activity against a host of human pathogens, and even breast cancer cells, and possess anti-malaria and antibacterial properties. The study found that chemicals isolated from fungi in three-toed sloths were deadly for parasites that cause malaria.”
The chemicals in sloth fur attack bacteria differently than most man-made drugs, which “suggests a potentially new mode of action” for treating diseases. As a result, PopSci has called sloth fur’s treatment scope a “potential goldmine for drug discovery.”
We’re still years away from any applicable medication from the discovery, but that it is an option at all ought to lend a little credibility to the once brow-beaten sloth. If only they had told us sooner.