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Scientists find untapped pharmaceutical resources in deep sea




Chinese marine scientists have identified a plethora of previously unknown microbial natural products from the deep sea floor that may have pharmaceutical applications.

In the cold seeps of the deep sea, microbial communities thrive on the geological seepage of hydrocarbons and inorganic compounds for sustenance, in stark contrast to the sunlight-dependent ecosystems that people are more familiar with on the surface.

These organisms utilize biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) to synthesize natural products that help them contend for resources. These unknown natural products are believed to possess potent anti-microbial properties, which could be a Game-changer in the fight against drug-resistant infections.

The team of scientists, led by researchers from the Third Institute of Oceanography under the Ministry of Natural Resources, have analyzed 22 sediment cores from nine cold seeps, and detected natural product-encoding BGCs from 63 archaeal and bacterial phyla.

A large proportion of the BGCs they discovered are likely to encode antimicrobial compounds, serving as chemical weapons for host defense and comPetition within the microbial community, according to the study published recently in the journal Science Advances.

The findings provide a pathway to identify previously unrecognized antimicrobial compounds and other types of drugs, according to the researchers.