• Scientists from the University discover bacteria that produce antibiotics in algae and coral ecosystems of the Cantabrian sea

    October 08, 2014

    A cross-curricular team confirms the presence of actinobacteria in marine habitats and analyzes their potential as producers of antibiotics and antitumorals

    Part of the research team that has worked on this discovery, in one of the laboratories of the Area of Microbiology at the Faculty of Medicine.

    Researchers from the University of Oviedo have discovered bacterias that produce antibiotics in algae and coral habitats of the Cantabrian sea. The work of the team led by Professor Gloria Blanco will be published in the near future in the prestigious Microbial Ecology journal. The research is part of the lines of research of the newly-created Marine Observatory of Asturias (OMA) on the exploration of the marine life at the Cantabrian sea and the exploitation of its natural resources. The OMA is part of the initiatives set in motion by the Campus of International Excellence.

    The scientific team is centered on the study of actinobacteria, microorganisms that are essential to life in our planet and for human health, since they are the main producers of antibiotics, antitumorals and other drugs used in medicine. Although they have been traditionally taken for soil bacteria, during the past few years their presence in marine environments in symbiosis with other living organisms, such as animals and plants, has become obvious.

    "Oceans are currently an alternative source of isolation of new families of actinobacteria, whose study has become very attractive due to the increase in new and powerful compounds of pharmacological interest that they produce", explains Gloria Blanco. This line of research belongs to the new trends of the international scientific community to discover new medicines. The working hypotesis is based on the exploration of new habitats, in order to obtain new species or families that produce natural molecules with a potential pharmacological application.

    The work conducted by the experts has led them to the discovery at the Cantabrian sea of a great diversity of actinobacteria that produce molecules with antibiotical and antitumoral activities, and which are linked to different organisms in different ecosystems. The first disciveries of actinobacteria were made in intertidal algae recovered in different beaches of Gijón in 2010. During this past year, the experts have been able to isolate very varied populations of these actinobacteria from subtidal algae recovered from the Asturian coast, a work that has been performed in collaboration with the Fishing Experimentation Center of the Principality of Asturias and the Department of Organisms and Systems of the University of Oviedo.

    A new species identified

    The team led by Gloria Blanco has also been part of one of the campaigns performed at the Cañón de Avilés as part of the DOSMARES project, leading to the discovery of actinobacteria capable of living in coral reefs located up to 4,7000m deep. The samples taken at 1,500m of depth have enabled them to identify a new species of actinobacteria that lives associated to corals and starfish, which has been called Myceligenerans cantabricum and has been deposited in the Spanish (CECT) and German (DSMZ) Collection of Type Samples.

    The work, which will be plubished in the prestigios Microbial Ecology journal, has allowed the experts to also identify a new species that lives associated to corals and starfish.

    "Given the large number of actinobacteria that produce bioactive compounds and which we have isolated, and, knowing the current clinical needs to have new medicines, it is a priority for us to go deeper into this study to determine the possible novelty of the compounds we obtained, elucidate their chemical structure and assess its more than probable interest for medical-pharmaceutical applications", points out the Professor of Microbiology. A group of experts on infectious diseases of the HUCA and the Hospital of Cabueñes is collaborating with the analysis of the antibiotical activities of the natural products obtained in this research. The cross-curricular nature of the research has involved biologists, chemists, doctors and biotechnologists.

    Researchers who sign the article

    • Gloria Blanco (Area of Microbiology of the Department of Functional Biology)
    • Alfredo F. Braña (Area of Microbiology of the Department of Functional Biology)
    • Aida Sarmiento (Area of Microbiology of the Department of Functional Biology)
    • Verónica González (Area of Microbiology of the Department of Functional Biology)
    • Luis A. García (Department of Chemical Engineering and Environmetal Techonology)
    • Herminio Nava (Area of Botanics)
    • José Luis Acuña (Area of Ecology)
    • Axayacatl Molina (Area of Ecology)
    • Hans-Peter Fiedler (University of Tübingen, Germany)

    Other researchers

    • José Manuel Rico Ordás (Area of Ecology, Department of Biology of Organisms and Systems)
    • Juan José Palacios (HUCA)
    • Jonathan Fernández (HUCA)
    • Fernando Vázquez (Area of Microbiology of the Department of Functional Biology-HUCA)
    • Luis Otero (Hospital of Cabueñes)
    • Andreas Kulik (University of Tübingen, Germany)
    • Eva Llera (Fishing Experimentation Center of the Principality of Asturias)
    • Lucía García (Fishing Experimentation Center of the Principality of Asturias)

    Banner image

    View under the microscope of some of the marine bacteriae discovered.