• Researchers of the University find bacteria with therapeutic potential in rain water

    November 10, 2015

    A multidisciplinary group isolates actinobacteria able to produce antitumor antibiotics from rainwater collected in Oviedo and Gijón

    Models of dispersion of these microorganisms over land, sea and air

    Researchers of the University of Oviedo have isolated and grown bacteria with potential therapeutic capacities in rainwater, hail and snow. These findings represent an innovative and unexplored resource in the search for new medicines, as explained by Gloria Blanco, professor of the Area of Microbiology of the Department of Functional Biology of the Asturian academic institution. This researcher explains that the main resource of antitumor antibiotics is nature, where we find the so called actinobacteria, with high pharmacological potential, mostly Streptomyces. These organisms, which in the 20th century were considered to be in the terrestrial environment only, are also commonly found in oceans.

    In February, 2013 this group of scientists of the University of Oviedo started to isolate bacteria from samples of atmospheric precipitation water collected in Gijón and Oviedo. Throughout the last three years, Gloria Blanco´s research group has cultivated in the laboratory a large number of these microorganisms isolated from different atmospheric sources. Studies have thus confirmed that these bacteria, in addition to living in terrestrial and marine environments, can also move around in accordance with the hydrologic cycle. Gloria Blanco highlights the "obvious relevance" of these findings, due to the current medical needs.

    Finding these actinobacteria in atmospheric precipitations represents an added value. This team of researchers has suggested a dispersal model on land, sea and air, following the hydrologic cycle of the planet. The key point of this hypothesis, according to the professor of the Department of Functional Biology, relies on the generation of marine aerosols that form the clouds and that, in this process, bring along bacteria which will be subsequently disseminated over continents and ocean throughout the Earth. This data has been recently publiched in the journal Microbial Ecology.

    Scientists state that these atmospheric resources are an innovative and unexplored tool to discover new drugs.

    The research line of this group, consisting of biologists, biotechnologists, chemists and doctors is based on the search for new antitumor antibiotics derived from natural habitats previously unexplored. Professor Blanco highlights that, due to the increasing problem of drug resistance, it is necessary to search for new molecules.

    In 2007 researchers of the University of Oviedo started the process to isolate Streptomyces from ground-dwelling lichens, and in 2010 they gave a step forward and found bacterial populations in algae ecosystems in the seashore in Gijón. This initial evidence encouraged them to search for these microorganisms in deeper marine environments in the Cantabrian Sea. That is how, in 2012, once they knew about the DOSMARES Project in the Cañón de Avilés, scientists contacted marine ecologist José Luis Acuña, who invited them to participate in the BIOCANT3 campaign in the spring 2013. That same year, they started to isolate the first actinobacteria in rainwater, hail and snow collected in Asturias.

    Professor Gloria Blanco emphasizes the team work developed by experts in different fields of knowledge of several Departments of the University, like Functional Biology, Organisms and Systems Biology, Chemical Engineering and Environmental Technology. Some other entities like Central University Hospital of Oviedo (HUCA), Cabueñes Hospital and the Fisheries Experimentation Center of the Principality of Asturias also joined this team work. The study is framed within the research lines of the Marine Observatory of Asturias (OMA) on the exploration of marine ecosystems and the exploitation of natural resources. The OMA joins the initiatives implemented by the Campus of International Excellence of the University of Oviedo. In the past year, researchers have established a framework for the collaboration with Medina Foundation, Center of Excellence for Innovative Medicines of Granada, in order to determine the molecular structure of natural products, thus establishing their possible innovation.


    Atmospheric Dispersal of Bioactive Streptomyces albidoflavus Strains Among Terrestrial and Marine Environments.

    Microb Ecol. DOI 10.1007/s00248-015-0654-z

    Aida Sarmiento-Vizcaíno, Alfredo F. Braña, Verónica González, Herminio Nava, Axayacatl Molina, Eva Llera, Hans-Peter Fiedler, José M. Rico, Lucía García-Flórez, José L. Acuña, Luis A. García, Gloria Blanco.