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Eyes May Possess Infection-Killing Power: Study

Eye proteins that can kill harmful bacteria may prove useful in developing new powerful and inexpensive antimicrobial drugs, according to a new study.

The finding was made by University of California, Berkeley, researchers investigating why eyes are so resistant to infection. They noticed that there is no bacteria living on the surface of the eye, unlike other surfaces of the body.

They also discovered that tissue from the eye's cornea -- the transparent part of the eye that covers the pupil and iris -- could destroy a number of types of bacteria in lab experiments.

"It is very difficult to infect the cornea of a healthy eye. We've even used tissue paper to damage the eye's surface cells and then plastered them with bacteria, and still had trouble getting bacteria to enter the cornea. So we proposed that maybe there were antimicrobial factors that are unique to the eye," study principal investigator Suzanne Fleiszig, a professor at UC Berkeley's School of Optometry who specializes in infectious diseases and microbiology, said in a university news release.
 
 

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