Antibiotic from marine organism effective against anthrax

California scientists recently discovered a new potential drug from a marine microorganism that is effective against anthrax and other gram-positive bacteria, according to a study published in Angewandte Chemie.

Researchers from University of California at San Diego and the San Diego-based Trius Therapeutics successfully isolated a molecule from a species of Streptomyces that kills off anthrax bacteria, streptococci, enterococci and staphylococci. The molecule was practically useless against gram-negative bacteria, Laboratory Equipment reports.

The molecule, which the researchers called anthracimycin, has a structure completely different from all known antibiotics.

When the researchers altered the structure of anthracimycin to contain chlorine atoms, the analogue was only half as effective against anthrax, though its activity against gram-negative bacteria significantly increased. The finding was significant because gram-negative bacteria are typically resistant to current antibiotics. Studies of the new class of antibacterials could result in the development of new and effective drugs.

Anthrax is a deadly infectious disease caused by the spore forming Bacillus anthracis bacterium that can be transmitted by infected farm animals. Anthrax can also be used as a biological weapon and attacks with letters containing anthrax spores resulted in five deaths in 2001.

Anthrax infection often requires tedious treatment with multiple antibiotics. Infections in the respiratory system are particularly dangerous and require continuous intravenous antibiotics. Finding more effective antibiotics is important for the treatment of the lethal disease, Laboratory Equipment reports.