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Crustacean shells may soon be used in medicine

Brisbane: Scientists are trying to use the smelly remains of crustaceans to make antibiotics for drug resistant bacteria. At least, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology claim so. Australian scientists have found that crustacean shells can be used as an effective medicine against the drug resistant bacteria.

Courtesy: APTN

Crustacean shells like shellfishes' and prawns' remains are now used by the researchers at Queensland University of Technology to test whether they can fight deadly antibiotic resistant super bugs, like staphylococcus.

"It has been a long time I have been working on this and from the test we have done we are confident it works very well," says Dr Phong Tran from the university's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation.

The powder prepared from the crustacean shells is named Chitosan and is said to possess anti-bacterial properties. It is a biodegradable polymer and the clinical studies are investigating how to use the powder to fight disease .

In the experiments that scientists are making , impurities such as heavy metals are first eliminated from the shells. Then, anti microbial agents like silver and selenium, an antioxidant, are added to the chitosan.

Dr Tran says, these nano particles added to the membrane are able to stop the spread of some drug resistant bacteria such as staphylococcus aureus, known as golden staph.

He also said that the final product is a melleable membrane compatible with human skin. So it could also be used as a skin graft. The thickness of the membrane can also be adjusted according to the requirement.

The membrane is a hydrogel that can also enhance the lives of diabetic sufferers with ulcers. But that will be a reality at least five years from now.

"It is incredibly exciting and if we can heal wounds that previously have been very reluctant to be healed then it is a net benefit for thousands of people," says Biomedical Innovation Project scientist David Hewitt.

At present the researchers are experimenting on animals and later clinical trials for humans will be considered.
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