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This Amazing Antartic Sponge May Just Wipe Off Highly-Resistant MRSA Bacteria

May 22, 2016 02:17 PM EDT

Scientists at University of South Florida may have found a treatment to Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bacterial infection resistant to numerous antibiotics.

According to WebMD, Staph is one of the most common causes of skin infections in the U.S. A strain of Staph, MRSA often causes mild to serious skin infections, which can lead pneumonia and bloodstream infections. Because it is highly-resistant to antibiotics, it is considered life-threatening bacteria.

In an effort to find new antibiotics for the highly virulent strains of MRSA, USF chemistry professor Dr. Bill Baker and his team dove into the freezing waters of Antarctica to find invertebrates with the highest pharmaceutical potential.

A paper published by the same team in 1995 noted that Antarctica is home to large groups of invertebrates, which have a variety of active and cytotoxic behavioral and antibiotic properties.

In 2011, Baker brought back samples of Denrilla membranosa, a sponge, that appeared to show the best odds yet.

The sea star, according to the paper published in the American Chemical Society's journal, Organic Letters, had not been heavily preyed upon indicating that it must have some form of chemical protection.

Through, "natural product isolation," the group was able to create a synthetic form of extract they dubbed as "darwinolide," which had been found to kill 98 percent MRSA bacteria cells.

"When we screened darwinolide against MRSA we found that only 1.6 percent of the bacterium survived and grew. This suggests that darwinolide may be a good foundation for an urgently needed antibiotic effective against biofilms," said Baker in a statement.

The darwinolide had not attacked the MRSA bacteria, but it attacked the biofilm, which serves as the protective shell of the bacteria.

Baker said this will pave the way to directly killing the MRSA bacteria as previous antibiotics have a hard time penetrating that shell to kill the bacteria inside.

"We suggest that darwinolide may present a highly suitable scaffold for the development of urgently needed, novel, anti-biofilm-specific antibiotics," the researchers concluded.

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