Could snail and slug slime provide an alternative to conventional antibiotics?

Slug and snail slime not only acts as an adhesive and lubricant for the creatures, it allows them to glide over rough surfaces without the risk of injury. New reseach shows that the mucus could be used in potentical medical applications. Due the slime’s antibacterial and antiviral properties, slug and snail mucus has been investigated for future applications in medicine, in particular, for fighting multidrug resistant bacteria such as MRSA.

By Julie Colthorpe

Over the last few years, several studies have been carried out on snail and slug mucus’ antimicrobial activity against other microorganisms, especially against multidrug resistant bacteria, such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). This is particularly important since one of the major public health problems is an increasing number of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

For this reason, research in recent years has been directed towards the discovery of new antimicrobial substances, particularly natural substances such as plant extracts, essential oils and antimicrobial peptides isolated from many different animals, including deep-sea creatures and insects.

Sticky and slimy but potentially healing
Snail and slug mucus is a sticky elastic substance secreted by specific glands with adhesive and lubricants properties that allows the animals to firmly adhere themselves to many different surfaces, including rough terrain. It also helps the creatures from drying out and thanks to their sliminess, they are viewed as fairly unattractive food options for predators.

Unlike snails, slugs have no shell to protect them when they detect danger, which is why slugs have a very thick slime, which makes them disgusting to predators, and so are less likely to be eaten. The mucus is also thought to help prevent infection and facilitate healing.

Employment in traditional medicine
Used since ancient times for human health, snail and slug mucus is still very important in traditional and folkloristic medicine.

Moreover, recent research has investigated the protein and components in the mucus and its antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal activity. The research shows that the antimicrobial activities of slug and snail mucus could lead to their potential employment in several fields as natural additives.

Wound-healing and antibacterial
In a review recently published in the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, the authors summarize the results of antimicrobial studies of snail and slug mucus and its compounds in order to better understand its application and propose the slime’s employment in future studies as a natural antimicrobial agent.

Research shows snail mucus has the ability to facilitate wound healing and to prevent its infections thanks to its many bioactive compounds. Over the few last years, numerous studies on mucus composition have clarified many aspects of its properties, although much remains to be investigated on its antibacterial activity.

Antimicrobial activity against superbugs
Based on the results obtained by several studies on the antimicrobial properties of snail and slug mucus, it seems clear that this natural product could be a potential subject of further investigations. The new findings regarding its active components are a starting point for the formulation of new products for therapeutic and pharmacological uses as an alternative to conventional antibiotics. Natural peptides, as like those extracted from the snail and slug mucus, could be considered as potential alternatives in therapy.

Read the original article here

Giovanni Cilia, Filippo Fratini: Antimicrobial properties of terrestrial snail and slug mucus. 27.03.2018

The Editors

Articles signed by the editors were written in a collective effort.

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