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Using Sharks’ Tricks to Prevent Lethal and Costly Infections

Staph bacteria (red) forming a biofilmNational Science Foundation

A common enemy befouls surgeons, plumbers, and sailors alike: slime. In each of their professions, they wage ceaseless war against biofouling—layers of living organisms that stick around exactly where we don’t want them.  Removing these various scum layers is a billion-dollar endeavor.

Boats were among the first documented victims of biofouling. Most notably, barnacles are infamous for causing turbulence; their buildup makes ships less streamlined, resulting in slower deliveries and up to 50% more fuel consumption. Over time, barnacles will also damage the hull of a ship if they’re not removed—a task made challenging by the fact that they produce one of the strongest known

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