Fish slime could be new source for antibiotics, according to latest study

As antibiotics become more resistant to dangerous bacteria, researchers are looking into whether fish slime could provide a way to protect humans from those pathogens.

The team, which consists of a collaboration between Oregon State University and California State University Fullerton, studied the bacteria that gets collected in the protective mucus that coats a fish.

While antibiotics effectiveness is dwindling worldwide, which has prompted researchers to look for a way to replace the medications in unlikely places, according to the American Chemical Society.

Researchers identified bacteria "with promising antibiotic activity against known pathogens," when they studied the thick slime on fish. The mucus traps and destroys microbes in a fish's environment, such as bacteria, fungi and viruses. Some of the compounds in the mucus also have antibacterial activity.

"For us, any microbe in the marine environment that could provide a new compound is worth exploring," said Sandra Loesgen, the team's principal investigator who is at Oregon State University.

Loesgen said that microorganisms in the marine environments are relatively unstudied and that the fish mucus could be a goldmine for those microbes.

The research was presented in April at the American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition.

During the presentation, Loesgen explained that they collaborated with Erin Paig-Tran at Cal State Fullerton, who supplied the fish slime.

Paig-Tran and her team swabbed young fish that lived in the deep sea and along the surface. The younger fish were examined because they have less-developed immune systems, which means there was more mucus coating than on older fish. That mucus also contained a large amount of active bacteria.

Molly Austin, an undergraduate student at OSU, and Paige Mandelare, a graduate student at OSU, both then isolated and screened 47 different strains of bacteria from the slime. Five of the samples were effective against MRSA and three others were effective against a fungus that is pathogenic to humans.

Austin found that a particular bacteria taken from a Pacific pink perch showed strong effectiveness against MRSA and a colon carcinogenic cell. She is focusing future studies on how that bacteria could benefit antibiotics.

Loesgen said in addition to finding new sources of antibiotics to help people, they are looking for other ways to use the slime. One example is that it could help fish farmers by using antibiotics that better target specific bacteria clinging to certain fish.