Sea life useful for medication: Eijkman
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A study reveals that marine invertebrates have a large number of bioactive compounds which are potentially important in the development chemical and pharmaceutical products.
A newly-released study “Bioprospecting of marine microorganisms to provide cures for neglected tropical diseases” conducted by the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology shows that microbial and fungi symbiotes taken from marine invertebrates have bioactive compounds which can reduce multi-drug resistant strains.
Bioprospecting is the process of discovery and commercialization of new products based in biological resources, typically in less-developed countries. Bioprospecting often draws on indigenous knowledge about uses and characteristics of plants and animals.
Bioprospecting can bring royalties to lesser-developed countries. However, the fairness of bilateral bioprospecting contracts has been a subject of debate.
Despite their potential, most marine microorganisms in Indonesia have not been tapped, according to Chelzie Crenna Darussalam, from the institute.
Marine invertebrates, such as gorgonians (or sea fans), tunicates, nudibranches, soft coral, and sponges can excrete compounds well known for their pharmaceutical potential.
“By isolating marine microorganisms, we can screen microbial symbionts with biological activity against pathogenic bacteria,” Chelzie told a workshop on Thursday jointly held by the institute, the Research and Technology Ministry, USAID and University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC).
Using samples from Karimunjawa (north of Jepara in Central Java) and Raja Ampat (Papua), the study reveals that 20 out of 300 isolates examined during the research had potentially active compounds. Of the 20 isolates, 13 can reduce multi-drug resistant strains.
MDR strains are resistant to at least 10 antibiotics from 4 different classes.
Of 178 samples taken from Karimunjawa, 10 have biological activity which reduced MDR strains. Meanwhile, almost all from Raja Ampat have the potential to produce a broad spectrum of antibiotics. All of the samples can slow down the MDR strains.
The research was part of three-year project of University of California-Indonesia Marine Biotechnology Partnership which began on May 2008. The biotechnology marine program involved five US and Indonesian research institutions: two UCSC research institutions; Diponegoro University (Undip) in Semarang, Central Java; Hasanudin University (Unhas) in Makassar, South Sulawesi; and Eijkman Institute.
The Eijkman Institute is the most prestigious and internationally acclaimed research institution in Indonesia. The Institute has a long, proud scientific tradition.
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