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October 2000 Vol. 15, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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No More Sea Lice; No More Jellyfish Stings

from the October, 2000 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

After ten years of research, Israeli scientists have come up with a lotion that protects against the stings of most jellyfish, anemones, and corals. Clinical dermatologists in a hospital approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration illustrated the effectiveness of the product named SafeSea against pain and rash.

Each volunteer touched the jellyfish with an unprotected hand and a hand protected by SafeSea. None felt pain or skin irritation in the SafeSea hand, while the unprotected hand developed the expected pain and rash.

Jellyfish, sea lice, sea nettles, coral, and anemones are equipped with stinging cells that consist of a capsule the nematocyst containing a tubule filled with potent toxins. When it comes into contact with human tissue, the tubule is fired from the capsule at speeds comparable to those of a bullet being fired from a gun. The discharge is driven by the buildup of internal hydrostatic pressure reaching levels as high as 200 atmospheres, equivalent to the pressure in an aluminum 80.

The active ingredient in SafeSea interferes with stinging cells biochemistry, reducing their pressure and interrupting their sensing mechanism. It was derived from the protective mucous secreted by clownfish, who live unharmed among the tentacles of anemones.

The manufacturer, Nidaria, has not tested whether SafeSea is effective against the box jellyfish, which kills as many as 65 people a year in Australia, most within less than three minutes of being stung. However, since the compound interferes with the stinging mechanism common to jellyfish, anemones, and corals, it is expected to be universally effective.

The cream will be marketed in the U.S. under the Skin Guard and SafeSea brands, and negotiations are underway with Coppertone and Hawaiian Tropic to produce a dual-purpose cream combining SafeSea and sunscreen.

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