It's straight to the shark's mouth for treatment to aid bite victims

Experts collect bacteria from a shark's mouth, in an effort to create an antibodies to treat bites.
CBS News

There were 53 shark attacks in the United States last year and about half of those were in Florida, according to a new report.

But what happens after a shark attack could be more dangerous than the bite itself.

Anthony Segrich was scuba diving off a Florida beach when he was mauled by a 12-foot bull shark.

"When I looked down I just saw the head and it just kept biting and biting and biting,'' Segrich said.

''Blood turns green underwater so the whole thing exploded green. The first bite goes across the knee through the kneecap all the way around and then down across the ankle."

Segrich's wounds became infected. Doctors could only guess at what antibiotics to use because they didn't know what bacteria were in the mouth of the shark.

Anthony Segrich shows off the scar on his knee, the result of a shark attack. CBS News

"They pumped me full of pretty much every antibiotic you could imagine ... I was in the hospital for five weeks"

Dr Robert Borrego saved Segrich's leg. He is leading a team at St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, to develop targeted antibiotics for shark bites.

"We have the sharks here -- so why don't we go and find out what kind of bacteria are in the shark's mouth?'' asks Borrego.

All they have to do is swab the gums of a live shark.

It is Josh Jorgensen's job to reel in a six-foot black tip shark.

Then swabs are collected from the shark's teeth along the mouth, also the gums and toothline -- where the bacteria grows.

Dr Robert Borrego saved Anthony Segrich's leg, using targeted antibiotics for sharks bites. CBS News

The shark is released and the samples go to Borrego's lab. The goal is to fine tune antibiotics for the bites of several species of sharks.

"It's definitely their domain. It's their ocean. Everything to them is food,'' said Segrich.

Finding an antibiotic answer could be the difference between life and death for the two dozen people who are attacked off Florida's coast each year.

  • Mark Strassmann
    Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.