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Seaweed to help combat drug-resistant superbugs, new research finds.

“[The study] enabled the discovery of two compounds produced by bacteria, which are not known yet, and can really be new molecules”.

Portuguese scientists have discovered that the common seaweed golden kelp, otherwise known as Laminaria ochroleuca, contains microbes that could help defeat drug-resistant superbugs.

This was the main conclusion of a study conducted by Maria de Fàtima Carvalho, a microbiologist at the Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR @CiimarUp) in Porto, Portugal. She said the study, which was published in the scientific magazine Fronteiras em Microbiologia, was “ground-breaking”.

The study found that Laminaria ochroleuca contain a range of actinobacteria, which have proved a rich source to make antibiotic antifungal drugs.

The discovered followed analysis of a seaweed sample taken off the shore of Mindelo in northern Portugal. After six weeks, the team isolated 90 actinobacterial strains that were then screened for antimicrobial properties.

The results showed that 45 of the strains inhibited the growth of the fungus Candida albicans or the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, two of the world’s most common causes of infections – or both.

De Fàtima Carvalho said some extracts proved adept in tackling infections at very low concentrations. She added that the study “enabled the discovery of two compounds produced by bacteria, which are not known yet, and can really be new molecules”.

According to the European Commission (EC), antimicrobial resistance (AMR) could be killing 700,000 people globally each year. Around 25,000 patients die annually in the EU alone as a result of infections caused by resistant bacteria and EU governments are starting to address this issue at the “highest political level”, according to the EC.

In fact, scientists are claiming that world leaders have to find innovative ways to tackle the global threat of AMR, including looking at nature to find solutions.

In a statement, CIIMAR said: “CIIMAR fosters an integrated approach to ocean and coastal areas promoting the understanding and knowledge of biological, physical and chemical dynamics of thee environments and the impact of natural and human activities, aiming to unravel the links between these processes, grasp ocean and ecosystems functioning and responses to global changes.”

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