New antibiotic fished out of sea




For years, scientists at the National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis (NIRT) (formerly Tuberculosis Research Centre) here in collaboration with Periyar University, Salem have been digging in deserts and under the sea hoping to unearth chemical compounds that had the potential to be developed into drugs to fight tuberculosis. Recently they announced that they had hit pay dirt at a coral reef off Rameswaram. From a soil sample obtained from under the sea there, the researchers isolated  a novel Streptomyces sp. which produced transitmycin, a novel antibiotic that could fight TB and HIV together. Scientists hunt for new drugs in extreme environments, such as deserts and under the sea where there’s little human presence. They believe that life forms in these regions could battle disease causing organisms in humans better than those in contact with humans.


“We were thrilled when we saw the compound we isolated turn yellow in petridish - a sure sign of a potent antibiotic,” said principal investigator Dr. Vanaja Kumar, Head of the Department of Bacteriology, NIRT. While NIRT scientists are celebrating, they say there’s much work to be done before a drug can be made available for patients. The project has so far cost Rs 25 lakh and may take another Rs 300 crore to develop the drug. The team has prepared a 64-page report and has urged the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to fund animal and human trials. “It would take another 10 years for the drug to hit the market, but we are hopeful that this would be our holy grail,” said Dr. Vanaja Kumar.








Source: The Times of India, June, 16, 2011.










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