Scientists are looking into fish slime to develop a new kind of antibiotics to combat the growing threat of superbugs to public health.
Decades of misuse of antibiotics have led to the rise of superbugs — strains of bacteria that have changed how they react to medicine. A growing number of infections, including pneumonia and tuberculosis, are becoming more challenging to treat because antibiotics are not as effective anymore.
Experts warned that the superbug problem could lead to situations where common infections would become life-threatening again. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 2 million people in the United States get antibiotic-resistant infections and an estimated 23,000 die from it.
Fish Slime Antibiotics
Now, a team of researchers proposed that new antibiotics that could squash superbugs could be found from fish slime. The mucus that coats the outer surface of the fish has the capacity to protect the marine animal from bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
"Fish mucus is really interesting because the environment the fish live in is complex," said Molly Austin, a student who is part of the research. "They are in contact with their environment all the time with many pathogenic viruses."
In the research, the team took a closer look at the collection of microbes in the mucus and the substance it produces. They took swabs from 17 species of fishes caught off the coast of Southern California.
The researchers said that they found 47 different strains of bacteria, some of which produce chemical mixtures that might be able to fight methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). A few strains, meanwhile, show promise against E.coli and even colon cancer cells.
They will present their findings at the American Chemical Society's Spring 2019 National Meeting & Exposition in Orlando, Florida.
The Race To Find New Antibiotics Against Superbugs
More studies are needed before the first antibiotics derived from fish slime are released to the market. The researchers said that their next goal is to identify the particular substance responsible for the mucus' antibacterial properties. Also, they have yet to analyze in detail each of the strains of bacteria they found from the fish slime swabs they collected.
"For us, any microbe in the marine environment that could provide a new compound is worth exploring," added Sandra Loesgen, the principal investigator of the study.