A team of scientists from the University of South Florida (USF) have been diving in the Antarctic near Palmer Station and have discovered a sponge named Dendrilla membranosa that provides a new natural chemical that they've named darwinolide. It is able to destroy over 98 percent of the cells of a very dangerous and fatal infection named MRSA (methicillin- resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Just to give you an idea of how important this development is, there are two-million hospital acquired infections in the United States alone each year. Those infections are responsible for at least 100,000 deaths each year. In the last few years, MRSA has become resistant to even the strongest intravenous antibiotics we have. This means that there may soon come a time when there are very few if any effective treatments for MRSA infections. What is wonderful about this new discovery is that darwinolide, a natural extract of this sponge may provide a scaffold on which to build a new kind of antibiotic that is effective against infections including MRSA, with a biofilm. About 80 percent of the infections humans suffer from are caused by biofilms that are resistant to treatment. The article from phys.org
news here includes many more details and names. It's a good introduction to what is happening here.
You'll also want to read the following two articles. First, there's a very informative report from the University of South Florida (USF) News Channel with more of the details, especially about why this important and how the two labs on campus worked together. http://news.usf.edu/article/templates/?a=7360&z=224
The research has been reported in a number of American Chemical Society Journals. You'll see a link in this news report to ACS's journal named Organic Letters Two scientists are specifically named: Dr. Bill Baker, chemistry, and Dr. Lindsey N. Shaw, Microbiology. Dr. Baker is the Director of the USF Center for Drug Discovery and Innovation (CDDI) He studies the chemical ecology of Antarctica. Based on the writing in this report, I believe he has probably been doing a lot of diving in Antarctica near Palmer Station, one of three U.S. Antarctic research stations there, over several years.
There's also a good report in gizmag.com
You'll pick up some additional understanding of biofilms and MRSA infections as well as a couple of other natural antibacterial lines of investigation.
What finding this very rare and unique sponge living in a very frigid and isolated environment has helped me to appreciate is how important it is to protect our natural environment and use it wisely as stewards of an incredibly rich and scarce resource. Nature has been able to develop an incredible diversity of species with all kinds of unimaginable beneficial biological traits, defense mechanisms, adaptations and genetic diversity. If we preserve a very wide variety of fragile, and unique ecosystems, we will be able to understand and utilize nature's depth and built-in wisdom to help ourselves find ways to survive many of challenging diseases and maladies we face. This is a wonderful example of how an unknown species, in an isolated, wild environment has lessons to teach us that can save millions, even billions of lives. Let us remember that and cherish it. #MRSAinfections #HospitalacquiredInfections #MedicalBreakthrough #biodiversity #extremeophiles #pharmaceuticaldiscovery #medication #antibiotics