As the amount of antibiotic-resistant bacteria grows, the hunt is on to find a new way to fight bacteria in the future.
Scientists fear that if we don't start looking for a solution now, our children and grandchildren might live in a world where simple infections are deadly. That's why Marcel Jaspars founded the PharmaSea project. The scientists behind the project are hoping to find new sources of antibiotics in an unusual place: the Arctic Ocean.
Jaspars is the director of the Marine Biodiscovery Centre and professor of organic chemistry at the University of Aberdeen. He believes the sea may hold untapped potential for antibiotics.
"In the past, bacteria and fungi have been the main sources for new antibiotics. In fact, about 70 percent of our antibiotics still come from nature, normally from sediment samples and soil samples from land. But now, by looking at the ocean, we hope to find new life forms which give us new chemistry that might be able to treat bacterial infections," Jaspars said.
The research team behind PharmaSea sails into Arctic waters using the ship the Helmer Hanssen to collect samples of dirt and marine life.
In the past, antibiotics such as penicillin were extremely powerful. However, through overuse and misuse of antibiotics, the drugs have become less effective. One study showed, for example, that eating chickens fed with antibiotics can make your body resistant to antibiotics.
Jaspars said that the team has found some promising signs for antibiotic use among their initial findings from the sea. The team will continue to do research, but Jaspars is hopeful it will find more samples with antibiotic properties. Last March, for example, it found four microbiomes specific to deep sea sponges.
"It is always very exciting when you get to the stage where you are the first person to see a bacteria, or the first person to identify the structure of a new molecule that has the potential, at that moment, to be a treatment for a difficult disease," Jaspars said.