UMT researcher produces plant-based solution to treat infections in marine life

Last update: 19/11/2019

KUALA NERUS, Nov 19 -- The abundance of the tree species Melaleuca cajuputi Powell, known locally as 'Pokok Gelam', found along the shores of Terengganu has prompted a researcher from the University of Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) to come up with a unique solution for marine life infections.

Commonly used in cosmetics or traditional medicines, UMT Tropical Aquaculture Institute deputy director Assoc Prof Marina Hassan's three-years of research has led to the creation of 'LeucaDrop', for the treatment of bacterial diseases in shrimps.

Marina said the product was the first of its kind, made using the extract of gelam leaves, and besides shrimp, it is also suitable for treating skin diseases in saltwater fish.

"Our elders used pokok gelam in traditional medicine for healing wounds, skin diseases and even treating asthma.

"In the market now, there are many cosmetic and traditional medicine products made from pokok gelam, such as Cajeput oil, but it is only for humans, and there are none yet available for aquatic animals," she said when met at UMT.

Marina, who is a veterinarian, said producing 'LeucaDrop' took a long time as it had to go through various processes such as complex and stringent laboratory tests and clinical studies.

This, she said, was to ensure that the extract was not toxic to the shrimp, and that the animal's health condition and ability to fight the disease must be monitored closely after the extract is given according to a certain dose.

"We use gelam leaves that are not too young or old to get the extract, which is then powdered and subsequently turned into a liquid form solution.

"For each litre of saltwater, only one drop of 'LeucaDrop' is needed, and it can cure bacterial diseases in shrimp such as 'red disease syndrome' and the parasite infection 'ectoparasites'," she said.

Marina said 'LeucaDrop', which had antibiotic properties, was suitable for use by saltwater shrimp breeders as it is more environmentally friendly than the commonly used solutions in the industry today.

She said it can also save up to 80 per cent in costs for treatments.

"Antibiotics used in the shrimp industry are very expensive, and have other issues such as the impact on the environment as well as human and animal wellbeing, due to the accumulation of antibiotics in cells and tissues.

"With the use of 'LeucaDrop' the yield can also be increased as it improves the health of shrimp, and increases their ability to fight diseases caused by bacteria and parasites, which are the number one enemy of the shrimp industry," she said, adding that she was currently looking for industry partners interested in commercialising the product.