"These compounds are excellent candidates for the development of an entirely new class of drugs targeted for the treatment of mucociliary disease," said Kenneth Olden, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
The NIEHS, one of the National Institutes of Health, provided $6.6 million to scientists at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach for the study. The findings are published in the January issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Florida red tide consists of microscopic plant-like cells that produce a potent chemical toxin that causes fish kills, contaminates shellfish, and creates severe respiratory irritation in people. As the concentration of red tide increases, waves and wind disperse toxin particles into the air, causing irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, lips and tongue.
After identifying the most potent of the red tide toxins, researchers asked a second question: Can the respiratory problems caused by the toxin be prevented? Their research led to the discovery of two "anti-toxins" - a man-made compound known as -Naphthoyl-brevetoxin, and brevenal, a natural compound produced by the organism itself. Experiments conducted in sheep revealed that both compounds were able to block the effects of the red tide toxin on the respiratory system.
While conducting experiments on the red tide anti-toxins, researchers made an even more important discovery - the anti-toxins behaved much like drugs used to treat cystic fibrosis. "We found these compounds are able to speed up the clearance of mucus from
Contact: John Peterson
NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences