Antibiotics search to focus on sea bed

Researchers are embarking on an £8m project to discover new antibiotics at the bottom of the ocean.

A team, led by scientists at Aberdeen University, is hunting for undiscovered chemicals among life which has evolved in deep sea trenches.

Prof Marcel Jaspars said the team hoped to find "the next generation" of infection-fighting drugs.

England's chief medical officer has warned of an "antibiotic apocalypse" with too few new drugs in the pipeline.

Few samples have ever been collected from ocean trenches - deep, narrow valleys in the sea floor that can plunge down to almost 6.8 miles (11km).

Yet researchers believe there is great potential for discovering antibiotics in these extreme conditions.

Life in these incredibly hostile environments is effectively cut off and has evolved differently in each trench.

The international team will use fishing vessels to drop sampling equipment on a reel of cables to the trench bed to collect sediment.

Scientists will then attempt to grow unique bacteria and fungi from the sediment which can be extracted and refined to discover new antibiotics.

Starting in the autumn with the Atacama Trench in the eastern Pacific Ocean - about 100 miles (161km) off the coast of Chile and Peru - the EU-funded research will also search deep trenches off New Zealand as well waters off the Antarctic.

Arctic waters off Norway will also be explored.

- BBC.co.uk


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