General Interest

General Interest: Compound Produced by Ocean Microbes Could Treat Anthrax and MRSA

Contributed by vosen on Aug 16, 2013 - 02:23 PM

Researchers at the University of California - San Diego have found a microbe in the Santa Barbara Bay that may produce a compound that could be used to treat anthrax and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) while conducting research.

The microbe belongs to the Streptomyces family and is found in the sediment close to the shores of Santa Barbara, California. The compound it produces, called “anthracimycin”, was novel in structure, which was solved by spectroscopy. Initial testing of anthracimycin showed it to be a powerful compound against anthrax and MRSA.  Anthracimycin would be a tremendous breakthrough as a drug because anthrax is feared as a possible weapon of bioterrorism and MRSA creates difficult to treat infections, typically in hospitals. In order for anthracimycin to become available as a treatment, more testing and development is needed to ensure the safety of it on people, which may take years.

This development is a testament to the importance of studying our oceans for new microbes. Much of the microbes in the ocean are difficult to isolate due to complications in replicating the environment they inhabit. Much of what has been recently discovered is the interdependence of microbes in their specific environment. New techniques are being implemented to isolate specific, difficult to isolate microbes by bringing the environment in the lab in order to observe how microbial populations grow in nature. This is then followed by isolation of specific microbes into diffusion growth chambers or growing groups of microbes together in co-cultures in order to learn more about a single microbe of interest. The ocean still remains a largely undiscovered reservoir of resources that could be the keys to a safer and healthier future.


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