Health and Science

Forget a sticking plaster: Try frog foam

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
Dr Paul Hoskisson

Foam from tiny frogs could be used to deliver antibiotics and prevent infections, new research has shown.

This week, scientists from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland presented their findings at the Microbiology Society's Annual Conference in Liverpool, England.

Their study showed that foam made by Trinidadian frogs could have "important health applications," according to a news release.

"Foams are unusual in nature and are typically made of inactivated proteins," Paul Hoskisson, who led the research team, said.

"Yet this foam is stable and importantly compatible with human cells, making it potentially ideal for pharmaceutical applications," Hoskisson added.

Tungara frogs – which measure less than five centimeters in length – excrete a protein cocktail while mating that is beaten "into a foam" using their back legs. The frogs then lay eggs in the foam to give them protection from "disease, predators and environmental stresses."

The team looked at the foam and found it to be incredibly stable, non-toxic to humans, able to take up drugs and also release them at a stable rate.

"While foams like these are a long way from hitting the clinic, they could help in burns and wound treatment, providing support and protection for healing tissue and delivering drugs at the same time," Hoskisson said.

According to the university, foam was loaded with the antibiotic vancomycin and was shown to stop the in vitro growth of the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium for 48 hours.

The issue of "healthcare associated infections" is an expensive one. According to the National Health Service, it's estimated they cost £1 billion a year.

Looking forward, the researchers saw the foam being used to treat "severe burns" that are prone to becoming infected, necessitating the use of intravenous antibiotics.

"This foam comes from a tiny frog and yet offers us a whole new approach that could prevent wound infections, and with increasing antibiotic resistance it's important that all new tactics are explored," scientist Sarah Brozio said.