Antibiotic Ocean Mud: New Bacteria Found Off Calif. Coast Fights Anthrax, Could Combat Drug-Resistant Superbugs [REPORT]

By Philip Ross on August 1, 2013 11:15 AM EDT

drug resistant
A new antibiotic from ocean mud, discovered in sediment off the coast of southern California, could help us fight drug-resistant bacteria as well as bioterrorism chemicals. The new compound is a never before seen species of Streptomyces bacteria, pictured here. (Photo: Creative Commons)

An antibiotic from ocean mud could be our answer to fighting drug-resistant superbugs as well as chemical weapons like anthrax. The new compound, discovered off the coast of southern California, was mined from a marine microorganism found in Pacific Ocean sediments. Finding new antibiotics is extremely rare. News of an antibiotic from ocean mud highlights the potential for finding new, lifesaving materials in the farthest reaches of the ocean floor.  

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The Daily Mail reports that the new antibiotic from ocean mud is a never before seen species of Streptomyces bacteria, which is used to make over two-thirds of the world's antibiotics of natural origin. The new bacterium is chemically and structurally different from all other existing antibiotics, meaning a new antibiotic drug could be well within scientists' reach.

Researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif., along with scientists at Trius Therapeutics, a biopharma company based in San Diego that develops antibiotics, worked in tandem to find and document new organisms off the coast of California. They've been scouring the ocean floor for over 15 years searching for possible new antibiotic bacteria. The group discovered the novel antibiotic from ocean mud back in 2012.

According to UT San Diego, there are a billion cells in every sugar-cube-size square of Pacific Ocean mud. The team of California researchers has already created a library of more than 15,000 strains of fungi, bacteria and yeasts they've discovered off the California coast. The compounds are kept frozen in the Scripps laboratories.

"We're using the chemistry of nature and billions of years of evolution to create molecules and screen those molecules for activity," Jeffrey Stein, chief executive of Trius, told UT San Diego back in 2010.

In 2010, The Defense Department awarded San Diego group $29.5 million to search the bottom of the ocean for treatments against biological weapons.

The newest antibiotic compound, called anthracimycin, has already proven to be affective against anthrax, a bacterium used in the past as a weapon of bioterrorism. The newly discovered antibiotic has also shown significant activity against the MRSA superbug, BBC reports.

"The real importance of this work is that anthracimycin has a new and unique chemical structure," William Fenical, the California team's lead researcher, told The BBC. "The discovery of truly new chemical compounds is quite rare. [It] adds to many previous discoveries that show that marine bacteria are genetically and chemically unique."

In a world where current antibiotic therapies are becoming resistant to diseases, the discovery of any new antibiotic is truly noteworthy. IScience Times reported earlier this year that through processes like natural selection, disease-causing microorganisms are beginning to resist drug treatments. Part of the problem is that people are over treated and often receive antibiotics unnecessarily. This is creating a host of drug-resistant "superbugs," like the drug-resistant strain of gonorrhea that cropped up earlier this year.

The new antibiotic from ocean mud could help us keep these superbugs at bay.

Read more from iScience Times:

Catastrophic Antibiotic Threat: Are We Becoming Immune To Antibiotics?

CRE Superbug Resists Antibiotics, Takes One Year To Die Off Says Latest Study [REPORT]

Obesity Linked To Antibiotic Use In Children

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