The team researchers in the lab: Lauren Paul and William Fenical (Credit: Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego)
A team of researchers from the University of San Diego stumbled upon a new chemical compound made from an ocean microbe that had shown remarkable potential for eliminating anthrax as well as several drug resistant strains of bacteria which kill tens of thousands of people each year.
According to a repot published by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 2005 Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (or MRSA) – a strain of Staphylococcus resistant to antibiotics, was responsible for an estimated 94,000 life-threatening infections and 18,650 deaths that year. That is more than the 16,000 deaths associated with AIDS in the same year. However despite the loss of life and growing medical bills associated with treatment of MRSA patients, not enough progress have been made in recent years in developing new types of antibiotics that can effectively fight MRSA.
However a new compound discovered by the researchers from the University of San Diego could potentially change the equitation and give the doctors of tomorrow a desperately needed new type of powerful antibiotics that can fight both MRSA and dangerous pathogens such as Anthrax.
The compound comes from a microorganism called Streptomyces, which the research team collected just off the coast of Santa Barbara. The team called the compound anthracimycin, and are hoping it will eventually be developed into a new type of antibiotics (something that can take years).
Initial testing of the compound (in vitro) revealed its potency as a killer of anthrax, as well as MRSA. According to Professor William Fenical who led the research: “The real importance of this work is the fact that anthracimycin has a new and unique chemical structure. The discovery of truly new antibiotic compounds is quite rare. This discovery adds to many previous discoveries that show that marine bacteria are genetically and chemically unique.”
You can find more information about the research on the San Diego university website.
The following video shows Professor William Fenical talking about the research
Iddo has a B.A. in Philosophy and Cognitive Science and an M.A. in Philosophy of Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is currently writing his Ph.D. thesis on the relationship between the scientific community and industry. Iddo was awarded the 2006 Bar Hillel philosophy of science prize for his work on the relationship between science and technology. He is a member of the board of the lifeboat foundation and was the editor of several high-profile science and technology websites since 1999.