The Search for Antibiotics in Trenches

Written by on February 19, 2013 in Other News
Diver descending the wall of Cayman Trench in the Caribbean.

Diver descending the wall of Cayman Trench in the Caribbean. Photo credit: NOAA-OE.

A research team, led by scientists at the University of Aberdeen are beginning an £8 million (over US$12 million) project to search for new chemicals at the bottom of deep sea trenches.

The international team is looking for “the next generation” of antibiotics, said Marcel Jaspars, professor of chemistry at Aberdeen.

Trenches can reach almost 7 miles deep and they haven’t been explored thoroughly, which is why researchers believe there is still potential for discovering new chemicals and components for infection-fighting drugs.

Their first stop will be the Atacama Trench in the eastern Pacific Ocean, about 100 miles off the coast of Chile and Peru. They will continue to explore trenches near Antarctica, New Zealand, Norway and the Arctic.

“In effect, trenches are separated from each other and represent islands of diversity,” Jaspars explained. “Since they are not connected to each other life has evolved differently in each one.”

The researchers will drop sampling equipment attached to cables from fishing vessels above the trenches. The equipment will collect sediments that the researchers will attempt to use to grow bacteria and fungi in a lab.

“We’ll be testing many unique chemical compounds from these marine samples that have literally never seen the light of day,” said project coordinator Dr. Camila Esguerra, from the University of Leuven. “We’re quite hopeful that we’ll find a number of exciting new drug leads.”

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Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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