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Animal and Human Health Research Goes Full Circle

by Sheila Roberson and Sam Fahmy



Gasper, a beluga whale at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, and Spirit, an Athens-area dog that was deliberately set on fire, were both healed as a result of serendipity and the collaborative pharmaceutical and veterinary medical research of scientists at the University of Georgia. Their work has led to the development of an anti-microbial treatment that adheres to the skin without being toxic, with applications they hope to patent for the benefit of humans and animals.

“Serendipity is not normally a word applied to science,” said UGA professor of pharmacy Tony Capomacchia. “But sometimes a hunch or happenstance or just being in the right place at the right time can lead to exciting possibilities."

Such is the case with a collaboration between Capomacchia and Branson Ritchie, a distinguished research scientist in UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

The first noteworthy application of their adhesive anti-microbial compound came last year in the treatment and healing of the burned dog Spirit, a victim in a highly publicized animal cruelty case. More recently, aquatic veterinarians used it to treat skin ulcers on Gasper the beluga, a popular aquarium resident rescued from a Mexico City amusement park.

The compound, now known as Tricide, was initially developed by now-retired UGA professor Richard Wooley to treat burns. Later, researchers tested its healing qualities by applying it to skin lesions on fish and other aquatic animals. Tricide works by enhancing the effectiveness of antibiotics.

“In the case of burn victims, whether animal or human, bacteria and fungi can infect the open wounds and kill the patient,” Ritchie said. “With Tricide, we can kill those drug-resistant bacteria and fungi with compounds that cleanse wounds while being gentle on the tissue.”

Combining Tricide with a bio-adhesive came about as a result of collaboration between Ritchie and Capomacchia, who specializes in the formulation of drug delivery systems. Ritchie found that using an ointment made from vitamin E kept wounds from dehydrating and promoted healing. He learned that Capomacchia was also working with vitamin E in transdermal applications, and their collaboration began.

Ritchie believes the Tricide bio-adhesive could be a particularly valuable treatment for swimmers and people in military settings.

“In high school athletics especially, getting staph infections from scratches is a huge problem. Our bioadhesive can adhere to wet skin, cleanse the wound and promote healing,” he said.

Ritchie and Capomacchia are also looking at a non-oily formulation of the compound for use as a combination cleanser and ointment for killing acne-causing bacteria.

“We’ve gone from designing a non-toxic ointment to help burn victims, to developing drug delivery applications for aquatic animals, back to treating skin problems in humans,” said Capomacchia.

For more information, contact Branson Ritchie at


Research Communications, Office of the VP for Research, UGA
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