Marine Microbe Produces Unknown Antibiotic

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Next time you hit the beach, dig your feet into the sand. And consider that your toes might be mingling with the wonder drug of the future: an antibiotic strong enough to combat MRSA, even anthrax. That's what researchers may have found when they dug a few feet into beach sand at Gaviota State Park, near Santa Barbara: a previously undescribed species of Streptomyces bacteria, which pumps out an antibiotic called anthracimycin.

As you might have guessed, the old-school antibiotic streptomycin also comes from a strain of Streptomyces bacteria. But researchers say this newly discovered compound is structurally and chemically unique from that other mycin and from all other antibiotics—meaning it could launch a whole new class of drugs.

Early tests suggest anthracimycin is 25 to 40 times more potent than today's antibiotics at killing anthrax and other germs, in petri dishes at least. And it wiped out MRSA in 90 percent of infected mice. The results appear in the journal Angewandte Chemie. [Kyoung Hwa Jang et al, Anthracimycin, a Potent Anthrax Antibiotic from a Marine-Derived Actinomycete]

There's still no evidence the drug works in humans, and this study’s researchers say they won't be involved in human trials. But they're hoping pharmaceutical investigators won't be resistant to the idea.

—Christopher Intagliata

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.] 


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