15.12.2020 change 15.12.2020
Agnieszka Kliks-Pudlik
Agnieszka Kliks-Pudlik

Scientists hunt eco-friendly bacteriocins in Sea of Marmara

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Scientists are searching for an alternative to antibiotics off the coast of Istanbul.

The bacteriocins which are a ‘natural weapon’ against other bacteria could lie in the Sea of Marmara.

According to Dr. Artur Góra from the Biotechnology Centre of the Silesian University of Technology, most bacteriocins are antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). “It is a very diverse and extremely interesting group of compounds with high biological activity, not only antibacterial, but also antifungal, antiviral and potentially anticancer. Bacteriocins are a natural weapon bacteria used against other bacteria to gain an evolutionary advantage in the environment.

“Unlike the currently used antibiotics, bacteriocins, thanks to their unique properties, may prove to be an environmentally safe alternative that will not contribute to the drug resistance phenomenon among bacteria.

“Due to the high concentration of anthropogenic compounds (including antibiotics) in the inland Sea of Marmara, we predict that the bacteria that live in various ecological niches in this sea are resistant to the large number of antibiotics we use. Therefore, bacteria competing with each other for habitats must use other chemical compounds against their competitors in this fight.”

The task of the interdisciplinary team from the Silesian University of Technology in cooperation with the TUBITAK Marmara Research Center in Turkey is to identify and characterize new bacteriocins, and to analyse the safety of their future use.

Góra said: “The range of tasks of the Polish team is very broad and includes bioinformatic and structural analysis of bacteriocins or environmental analysis of the potential toxic effect on living organisms from all trophic levels. In addition, there are stability tests of bacteriocins, their isolation, production, purification and a number of other activities. This goal of this holistic approach is not only to discover new bioactive compounds with potential therapeutic application, but also to determine the safety of their use for the environment at this stage.”

Two strategies are currently used in the fight against pathogens: relatively selective weapons, i.e. antibiotics, against which bacteria can find a remedy through evolution, and 'total' weapons with negligible selectivity, which are usually simple chemical compounds or UV radiation that eliminate all microorganisms, harmful and useful ones alike.

Góra said: “In theory, bacteriocins can combine the advantages of both groups, they can be both selective and safe, and additionally, it is very difficult for bacteria to become resistant to them. A key element of our strategy is safety for the environment and our natural microbiome. It is also important that if effective bacteriocins are identified, their production on an industrial scale should take place in bioreactors and leave a negligible carbon footprint, in other words, it should also be environmentally friendly.”

The MarBaccines project is carried out as part of a competition for Polish-Turkish research projects; on the Polish side, scientists received PLN 850,000 funding from the National Centre for Research and Development.

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