Sunday, May 29, 2005

Deep-Sea Antibiotics

Many readers are probably aware of the rise in cases of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Normally, this dangerous infection is found in hospitals, but lately cases have been turning up among the general public at an alarming rate.

However, it looks as though MRSA may have met its match:

UK experts from the Universities of Kent and Newcastle found a new species of a common bacterium that lives in the sea beds of Japan can kill MRSA.

Actinomycete bacteria are known for their antibiotic properties. The new species, verrucosispora maris, produces a unique antibiotic, abyssomicin C.
As one of the researchers notes:
"The ones from the bottom of the sea have not come into contact with disease-forming bacteria [on land] which therefore have not got any resistance to them."
One wonders what else is down there. Unfortunately, we're more interested in searching the oceans for oil than medicine. The discovery of abyssomicin C shows just how useful it is to leave ecosystems intact until we know what's in them.


Cervantes said...

As a general rule, we should try to leave ecosystems intact even after we know what's in them. That's kind of a loose concept since all ecosystems nowadays are powerfully influenced by li'l ole us, but I think it's still a useful starting point.

Phila said...

Of course! I was being...well..."bitter" is probably the right word.

Sounds like we agree completely.

roger said...

i agree with both of you. and the millenium something assessment report has the majority of ecosystems failing. has any one tried oil to treat MRSA? (sarcasm, if not obvious)

am i mistaken in thinking that SA was not always MR? that it mutated to become so? even possibly evolved without an intelligent designer? (slap me before i'm sarcastic again)

so, as a real question, do you science guys have any notion about how long the staph might take to become resistant to this new antibiotic? or if it will?

Phila said...


Cervantes would be the expert, but I'll take a stab at it. SA is MR at this point largely because of overprescription/ would've happened anyway, as far as I know, but we helped it along considerably. And there are other forms of SA that withstand other antibiotics.

No idea how long it'd take for this new'll depend how wisely we use it (and I should add that it's not ready to go yet).

And yeah...while we debate evolution, bacteria and viruses go blithely about their business. One of these ID clods was arguing that no beneficial mutations had ever been observed in nature...tell it to MRSA!