Possible remedy against antibiotic-resistant MRSA infections found in marine algae

July 6, 2020

German researchers have successfully discovered marine molecules as potential remedy against infections and skin cancer in an alga and its fungal symbiont originating from the Kiel Fjord in Germany.The brown alga Fucus vesiculosus (bladder wrack) from the Kiel Fjord was found to inhibit the pathogenic bacterium Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which is believed to cause hospital infections.

“In nature, bladder wrack is often under strong pressure from fouling and biofilm formation by millions of microorganisms found in seawater. Membrane-bound compounds, as we identified in this study, are therefore of high ecological importance for self-protection of the alga. Such molecules, which perform a critical function in natural space, often display related activities against human pathogens.

“Since bladder wrack is an edible seaweed, such activities make it an attractive candidate not only as a source of drugs, but also for food supplements or food protection,” explained Professor Dr. Deniz Tasdemir, Head of the Marine Natural Product Chemistry Research Unit at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany.

Despite a complicated and costly process, marine compounds have contributed to numerous modern medicines used today thanks to their symbiotic microbiota: for the extraction of active ingredients in this research, a combination of new, automated approaches and traditional bioactivity-guided isolation processes enabled the researchers to “map the massive metabolome of brown alga and at the same time predict the molecular clusters responsible for their antibiotic activity,” said Dr. Larissa Büdenbender, a former postdoctoral fellow in Prof. Tasdemir’s group.

“The classical discovery approach from extraction to characterisation of bioactive ingredients of the alga would normally take 3-4 years. These automated tools helped us to accelerate the targeted discovery of new natural antibiotics down to some months,” noted Prof. Tasdemir.

Apart from drug development, the new found computer-aided automated approaches to isolate special molecules will subsequently be used to study fungal genomics in the food industry.


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