Surgical researcher Anwar Suleman Mall will present a unique and surprising lecture with an intriguing title, ‘Mucus and its foibles’.

Any mention of mucus in passing conversation elicits a mixture of derision, amusement (the thought of the footballer expectorating on the field) or even irritation (discomfort of the common cold!). This situation may have contributed to the absence of any serious research interest in the physiological role of mucus in our bodies prior to the late 1970s. Medical textbooks have long consigned mucus, in a few sentences, the role of ‘lubricant’ in the gastrointestinal tract. While this is a function not without significance, the period from the late seventies onwards saw a surge of interest in mucus, after a failure over many years by medical researchers to answer the question of why the stomach, an organ that secreted so potent a mixture of hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes, did not digest itself? After much initial resistance, a serious investigation began into the constituents of mucus secretions in the body. Today the study of mucus has become a topic of interest in laboratories at major institutions in Europe, Asia and the United States.

Whilst mucus research has come into its own especially in the last 20 odd years, a survey of the literature shows that this nascent field is quite fraught with controversy and differences of opinion – so much so that at the last international conference in Cambridge UK this past July, irresolvable ideas that had been shelved in the early 1980’s were again raised for consideration.

While touching upon some personal ideas developed through Mall’s involvement in mucus research at UCT and elsewhere, this lecture will trace the history of mucus research and the strides made in the understanding of the nature of this substance, the reasons for its tenacity and ability to protect the internal tracts of the body in hostile milieus, and why too much or too little of it can be problematic in a variety of diseases that include ulceration, cancer and even HIV-AIDS. Imraan Coovadia. Convenor for the Great Texts/Big Questions lectures adds “the human body is as much liquid as a solid. Anwar Mall has spent a lifetime studying mucus and in this lecture promises to make his discoveries accessible to the public”.

Anwar Suleman Mall is a surgical researcher in the research laboratory of the Division of General Surgery, Faculty of Health Sciences UCT. His major current research interests are in Mucus in HIV-AIDS and TB.

This event will take place at Hiddingh Hall, University of Cape Town (UCT) Hiddingh Campus, Orange Street, Cape Town on Thursday 27 October at 17:30 and is free. Refreshments will be served from 17:00. No Booking is necessary. For more information on the series, please contact 021 480 7156 or

Anwar Mall audio recording available for download.

Anwar Mall video recording:

Start: 27 Oct ’11 5:30 pm

End: 27 Oct ’11 6:30 pm

Cost: Free


Organizer: GIPCA


Venue: Hiddingh Hall

Phone: +27 21 480 7156

Address: Google Map UCT Hiddingh Campus, 31-37 Orange Street, Cape Town, 8001, Cape Town, Western Cape, 8001, South Africa