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Mucus Roundup

December 7, 2012

No one likes having mucus, but in some circumstances, it may be able to fight dangerous bacteria.



The good and bad side of mucus. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

When bacteria cells team up and form films, the result can be serious infections that the body’s immune system has a hard time fighting. In the journal Current Biology, scientists from MIT, Harvard and Oxford report that proteins called “mucins” found in mucus stop bacteria from clumping together and forming these films. Studying mucins and how they work could lead to new treatments to prevent infections.

In related news, doctors know that too much mucus production can impede breathing and be life threatening in people with respiratory disorders, like asthma. In the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers report that this over-production of mucus is caused by an enzyme called MAP- K13. They also report on drugs they’ve found that can inhibit the enzyme and may help treat these serious conditions. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.