Resistance to antibiotics is one of the scariest byproducts of our reliance on the drugs to cure everything from ear infections to respiratory issues. But what if the solution to drug resistance is right under our feet?
Zoologists at Tel Aviv University think that the superantibiotics of the future will come from the deep sea. So far, the researchers have identified, isolated, and purified thousands of bacteria and fungi–many of which could be potential disease fighters.
The key to the zoologists’ research is marine sponges–like Spongebob Squarepants–that protect themselves from harm by forming partnerships with neighboring bacteria and fungi. As it turns out, the same bacteria and fungi that help out the sedentary sponges may also be able to fight human infections.
Marine activists could argue that extracting living pharmaceuticals from the sea floor will damage fragile ecosystems, and they would be right. That’s why the Tel Aviv zoologists collect cultures from sea sponges and grow them in a “wet” laboratory. So bacteria and fungi are left to live with marine sponges in peace, and humans reap the benefits of an underwater pharmaceutical goldmine.