A new antibiotic compound that could be effective in fighting the fatal menace of the “superbug” MRSA and other drug-resistant microbes has been found off the coast of California, according to scientists.
Scientists discovered the new and unusual antibiotic compound from a marine microorganism found in sediments close to shore off Santa Barbara, California last year. They named the compound Anthracimycin.
It was in 2012 that Professor William Fenical along with colleagues from the University of California San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography first collected Streptomyces, the marine microorganism that produces the compound.
Initial testing of the compound found that it was potent in killing anthrax and the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
According to researchers, the compound has a completely new and unique chemical structure. This could lead to the development of a new class of antibiotic medicines.
“The real importance of this work is that anthracimycin has a new and unique chemical structure. The discovery of truly new chemical compounds is quite rare,” Fenical said. He added, “This discovery adds to many previous discoveries that show that marine bacteria are genetically and chemically unique.”
Kyoung Hwa Jang and his co-workers from Scripps also described the unusual structure of anthracimycin. They said it was unlike any other previously-reported natural antibiotic.
Details of their work appear in Angewandte Chemie, a German journal.
Scientists in the US have said that initial testing shows the compound to be effective in killing anthrax and its potency against superbug MRSA.
This may be an exciting new discovery. Much has been said about the potential of anthrax in the use of bio-terrorism. Experts say it may be among the most feared of biological weapons.
Scientists, healthcare workers, and other researchers have long warned about the nightmare scenario of anti-resistant bacteria that is looming on the horizon. They have talked about a global epidemic situation. They say every year MRSA kills or sickens thousands of people. It affects hospitals, schools and other public places, experts say.
Maryn McKenna, author of “Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA” said in a recent interview that the microbe poses an imminent danger to societies around the world.
“It’s a threat to people who are in hospitals, but in recent years it’s also become a threat to people out in the everyday world. It kind of takes people by surprise. It often affects, for instance, people in gyms or kids who play sports.”
She added that in addition to MRSA, other microbes pose a danger to the world. The menace is spreading to livestock and food supplies. She said the menace is caused in part by how we use and misuse drugs.
“MRSA is the leading edge of a really international epidemic of drug-resistant organisms that are getting worse and worse, both because they’re getting more resistant and also because we’ve, for the most part, stopped making antibiotics. So as the bugs get more resistant, we are running out of ways to treat them, because there’s no new drug coming along. And as if that weren’t all bad enough, it takes in not just human medicine and how we use drugs there, but also increasingly how we use and misuse drugs in farming around the world.”
Thomas Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently sounded a similar warning. He feared that a family of deadly and un-treatable super-bugs was spreading in hospitals across the country.
“These are nightmare bacteria that present a triple threat. They’re resistant to nearly all antibiotics. They have high mortality rates, killing half of people with serious infections. And they can spread their resistance to other bacteria.”
Sally Davis, Britain’s Chief Medical Officer recently warned that Britain’s health system could go back by 200 years unless the “catastrophic threat” of antibiotic resistance is successfully dealt with.
The discovery of the new antibiotic that attacks superbug MRSA and other microbes is welcome news to health care workers and others. According to scientists, this discovery highlights the potential resource of yet unexplored compounds offered by the oceans, in the development of drugs to fight deadly microbes.
By Perviz Walji