LA JOLLA, Calif. — A compound that appears to be an effective killer of anthrax and other infectious organisms was discovered by a researcher in the ocean off Santa Barbara, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography announced Wednesday.
Scripps researcher Chris Kauffman collected the microorganism that produces the compound last year from sediments close to shore.
The unusual structure of the compound, which was named anthracimycin, was tested by the Scripps Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine and San Diego-based Trius Therapeutics. Initial results revealed its potency as a killer of anthrax, the infectious disease often feared as a biological weapon, according to Scripps.
“The real importance of this work is the fact that anthracimycin has a new and unique chemical structure,” said William Fenical, who led Kauffman’s team.
Fenical said the finding could lead to testing and development of a drug.
“The discovery of truly new antibiotic compounds is quite rare,” Fenical said. “This discovery adds to many previous discoveries that show that marine bacteria are genetically and chemically unique.”
The testing also showed promise that the compound could be effective against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MSRA.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says MSRA is a difficult-to-treat form of staph bacteria that can infect hospital patients and athletes in locker rooms.
Scripps said the discovery provides new evidence that the oceans, and many of its unexplored regions, could yield new materials that can be used in the future to treat a variety of diseases and illnesses.
The discovery was reported in the international edition of the German journal Angewandte Chemie.