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Sea sponge could stop the spread of superbugs

A COMPOUND from a sea sponge was able to reverse antibiotic resistance in several strains of bacteria, making once-resistant strains succumb to readily available antibiotics, researchers in the United States said yesterday.

"We can resensitize these pathogenic bacteria to standard, current-generation antibiotics," said Peter Moeller of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hollings Marine Laboratory in South Carolina.

Drug-resistant bacteria are a growing problem in hospitals worldwide, marked by the rise of superbugs such as methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus, or MRSA. Such infections kill about 19,000 people a year in the US.

Moeller said the team noticed a sponge thriving in what was an otherwise dead coral reef. The researchers began chopping the sponge into smaller and smaller bits to isolate the properties that helped the sponge thrive in hostile marine conditions.

The team found that these bits of sponge were able to repel bacterial biofilms - a slimy substance bacteria form to help stick to surfaces.

"This is a very exciting result when you realize that 65 to 80 percent of all human pathogenic infections are based on biofilms," Moeller said.

He said they tested the substance on some of the toughest pathogens, including MRSA. When mixed with an antibiotic, they were able to make many types of once-resistant bacteria sensitive to antibiotics.


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