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Last Updated: Monday, 18 October, 2004, 10:10 GMT 11:10 UK
Fish slime may have medical uses
Rainbow trout
The slimy mucus on trout could yield new medicines
Scientists are hoping to discover if the slippery mucus on the skin of fish could be a source of new medicines.

Researchers at the University of the West of England will examine the antibacterial properties of the mucus using bioluminescence technology.

"Trout secrete a thick mucus which contains important chemicals which let them fight off bacteria in the river," said team member Dr Carolyn Paul.

The aim is to see if a new type of antibiotic can be produced.

'Early stage'

"Genetically modified disease-causing bacteria, which glow in the dark when they are active and stop glowing when they are killed, are being used in the research," said Dr Vyv Salisbury.

"The drop in the light given off by these bioluminescent reporter bacteria, when they are put on the fish slime, is a very effective way of measuring the antibacterial action of the slime."

The team is investigating whether the fish slime chemicals can be used to fight off infectious disease-causing bacteria including E.coli and salmonella, and the microbe pseudomonas which affects the lungs of vulnerable cystic fibrosis patients.

"Extracts from the trout mucus have already been shown to prevent growth and slow down the metabolic activity of some of these types of infectious bacteria," said Dr Paul.

"Our work is at a very early stage but if we can purify and produce these chemicals commercially, they may give us a new type of antibiotic, badly needed in view of the growing menace of antibiotic-resistant bacteria."

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