Antibiotic resistance could be stopped UNDER THE SEA: Scientists race against time | Science | News

The world urgently needs new antibiotics in order to fight back against a rising tide of microbial resistance – and a UK-based biochemist is leading the way with pioneering research in the world’s most extreme environments.

Dr Paul Race and his team at the University of Bristol are using a remote-controlled vehicle to plunge up to 2.8 miles (4.5 kilometres) into the sea to recover samples and grow the microorganisms that live within them in lab conditions.

From there they isolate the natural products that they produce.

Speaking ahead of a talk at the New Scientist Live festival at ExCeL which runs from September 20-23, he said: “We have already found a number of new antibiotic leads from our screening programme and this is hugely exciting.”

He added: “More than 70 percent of all the antibiotics that we currently use are based on natural products, like penicillins and erythromycins.

“In Bristol we are trying to discover new natural product-based antibiotics by isolating these compounds from microorganisms that live in the most ‘extreme’ environments around the globe, in particular the depths of the ocean.


“Microorganisms that live in these environments are largely uncharacterised, and we believe that they represent a vast, untapped source of natural products, which could form the basis of new antibiotics.”

Professor Race stressed the importance of antibiotics, which he said “underpin our entire healthcare system”.

As well as being used to treat bacterial infections, they are used to prevent infections in patients that, for example, have undergone surgery, or receiving therapies that suppress their immune system, like cancer chemotherapy.


But their relentless use means that bodies are becoming immune to antibiotics, meaning scientists face a race against time to find new ones.

Dr Race added: “More recently, however, the impact and potential repercussions of failing to moderate antibiotic use, and our collective failure over the past 30 years to develop new ones, has finally started to get some significant coverage.


“Thanks to antibiotics it is now almost impossible to comprehend a time when the majority of bacterial infections were life threatening afflictions.

“We must do everything in our power to ensure we don’t return to this.”

Dr Race called on the scientific community to band together to come up with solutions, both in terms of restricting overuse and development new medicines. 

He said: “We need to be more restrained in our use of antibiotics.

“By using antibiotics only when they are absolutely necessary we can slow the emergence of resistance and prolong the useful lifetime of the drugs that we currently have. 

“Secondly, and I can’t overstate the importance of this enough, we need to develop new antibiotics with novel modes of action that can be used to treat infections caused by bacteria that are resistant to our current front-line treatments.  

“Many of the largest pharmaceutical companies have de-prioritised, or in some cases entirely halted, antibiotic discovery.

“Resolving AMR is rapidly becoming one of the most pressing public health challenges of our time.

“I believe that we can only resolve the issue through joined up thinking between government, scientists, clinicians and industry, with all parties working together, pooling resources and expertise.”

For more details about New Scientist Live, visit

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