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Powerful antimicrobial proteins in the eye

Narrator:       This is Science Today. New research reveals that proteins in the eye pack a powerful antimicrobial punch — and this could lead to inexpensive germ-fighting drugs. Study leader Suzanne Fleiszig of the University of California, Berkeley's School of Optometry says the eye's cornea is very resistant to infection.

Fleiszig:         You have to go to great lengths to damage (the cornea) in order to get it infected. We looked at what molecules were being expressed that were killing bacteria. So, this led to the discovery that there is keratin fragments in there and it looked like they may have predicted antimicrobial activity, so then we tested them and they did.

Narrator:       Fleiszig says small keratin fragments effectively killed bacteria that can cause strep throat, staph infections and diarrhea.

Fleiszig:         There were different-sized fragments and so between them, we were able to kill all the different bugs that we tried. 

Narrator:       Since keratin is a naturally occurring protein in the body and is easy to manufacture, Fleiszig says this makes it a good candidate for low-cost, non-toxic antimicrobials. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.