The new fish therapy that has been given to millions of Atlantic cod could help save millions of them, according to a study.
The new treatment is an antibiotic known as borax, which is the same compound that has helped kill bacteria and viruses.
The treatment has been shown to reduce the disease-causing bacteria and viral infections in cod by 50 per cent.
But this is just one of the benefits that have been discovered.
A number of studies have shown the treatment can prevent or delay the progression of various cancers in fish, including the liver and kidney, and may even be able to slow down the progression in humans.
“The main benefit of this treatment is that it can prevent and slow the progression to cancer of the liver,” Dr Mark McEvoy from the University of Bristol told The Irish Press.
“We have a lot of work to do to demonstrate that, but this is the main benefit.”
The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The team studied the effectiveness of a treatment called Borax, given in the form of a cream to fish for four weeks in the early stages of disease.
They found that, when given in a single dose, the fish had less disease-producing bacteria and the virus-carrying bacteria were less prevalent in the fish.
This meant the fish could live longer.
“This is the first time we’ve shown that a single daily dose of boracetamid can have this effect,” Dr McEvoya said.
“It may well be the single biggest benefit of the treatment.”
The fish was given one of three doses a day.
After four weeks, fish had no more disease-bearing bacteria in their liver, kidneys or lungs than fish that had not received the treatment.
The researchers also found that the fish did not have more viruses in their bodies.
“Our results suggest that the treatment is effective at reducing disease in fish,” Dr McGowan said.
The fish also did not develop a virus-related liver or kidney infection.
Dr McDevoy said it was a promising result.
“They are still at risk of developing an infection,” he said.
The research was carried out at the University at Buffalo and in collaboration with the University College Cork and University of Manchester.