Could Fish Slime Be the Answer to Antibiotic Resistance?

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that antibiotic resistance continues to be among the biggest public health challenges today.  As a matter of fact, the agency advises that an estimated 2 million people, on average, contract an antibiotic-resistant infection every single year.  Furthermore, of those who contract one of these hard-to-treat conditions, at least 23,000 will die as a result.  Because of this, medical researchers are constantly on the hunt for ways to urgently address this issue. 

In addition to medical research, though, scientists and academics are looking for solutions as well. And, with that, researchers from Oregon State University say they may have found new antibiotics solutions that was hidden in a layer of mucus that coats the outer surface of fish. 

Apparently, this mucus helps to protect young fish from harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi that it might encounter in the water.  But the research team is really interested in the microbes where this mucus layer resides. Known more familiarly as the microbiome, researchers say the substance it produces could turn out to be quite helpful. 

According to lead researcher Dr. Sandra Loesgen, “We believe the microbes in the mucus add chemistry to the antiseptic power of the mucus and that new bioactive compounds might be discovered from the fish microbiome.”

An intimate look at this microbiome yields 47 different strains of bacteria, which the researchers grew separately in a laboratory to observe what substances were produced and what antimicrobial properties they might exhibit.  From these substances say a handful of strains produced a chemical mixture that could handle the very strong—and methicillin-resistant—Staphylococcus aureus;and a smaller proportion of the same cocktail could prove effective against E coli. They also found that some of the compounds could provide effective protection from the problematic—and prominent—yeast Candida albicans, as well as colon cancer cells.

Loesgen goes on to comment that this research is still new.  She remarks, “Thus far, we only analysed in detail one strain [found on a pink surfperch] and no novel chemicals have been found,” adding there are many more strains still to learn about. 

The results of this research has been presented, recently, at the American Chemical Society 2019 Spring National Meeting and Exposition in Orlando, Florida.