Aquatic Science

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Sea Sponges and Medicine?!?!
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CHICAGO (Reuters News Service) – A compound from a sea sponge was able to reverse antibiotic
resistance in several strains of bacteria, making once-resistant strains succumb to readily available
antibiotics, U.S. researchers said on Friday.
“We can resensitize these pathogenic bacteria to standard, current-generation antibiotics,” said Peter
Moeller of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hollings Marine Laboratory in
Charleston, South Carolina.
Drug-resistant bacteria are a growing problem in hospitals worldwide, marked by the rise of
superbugs such as methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus, or MRSA. Such infections kill about
19,000 people a year in the United States.
Moeller, who is working with researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and North
Carolina State University, said the team noticed a sponge thriving in what was an otherwise dead
coral reef.
“It begged the question how is it surviving when everything else is dying?” Moeller told reporters at the
American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago. “This opened up a whole
new arena for us.”
The researchers began chopping the sponge into smaller and smaller bits to isolate the properties
that helped the sponge thrive in hostile marine conditions.
The team found that these bits of sponge were able to repel bacterial biofilms — a slimy substance
bacteria form to help stick to surfaces.
“What we found is these (sponge) derivatives actually dispersed existing bacterial biofilms as well as
inhibited production of subsequent bacterial biofilms,” Moeller said. “This is a very exciting result
when you realize that 65 to 80 percent of all human pathogenic infections are based on biofilms,” he
added.
Moeller said the team tested the substance on some of the toughest pathogens, including MRSA.
They found when they mixed this sponge material in with an antibiotic, they were able to make
several types of once-resistant bacteria sensitive to antibiotics.
Since the compounds are non-toxic, Moeller said the team is now working with a number of medical
device companies to incorporate it into the plastic materials used to make devices like stents used to
prop open diseased arteries or in intravenous lines used in critically ill patients. He declined to name
the companies.
“The idea is that we could get rid of bacterial infections that are so common to them,” Moeller said.
Eventually, he foresees a new class of “helper drugs” that could restore the potency of antibiotics that
have lost the war to superbugs. “Getting it through FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)
approval will take awhile,” he said.Article Analysis “Sea Sponges and Medicine?!?! “
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