Bacteria in plastic ocean pollution can be a source of novel antibiotics to fight future superbugs.
Around 5 to 13 million metric tons of plastic pollution float around in the ocean. These piles of floating debris and microplastics are teaming with microbes that can form entire ecosystems. In natural competitive environments like this, these microbes can produce antibiotics. Hence plastic pollution in the ocean can harbor novel antibiotics.
Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography incubated ecosystems in water with high and low density polyethylene plastic to grow microbes. They isolated 5 antibiotic producing bacteria from ocean plastic. They found that the antibiotics produced by some of the bacteria were effective against common bacteria as well as 2 antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.
This research holds promise in isolating new antibiotics, especially in the light of the current antibiotic crisis and likelihood of new superbugs arising in the future.
The findings were presented at the American Society for Microbiology’s conference.