Antarctic organisms as a source of antimicrobial compounds

Only plants and animals that have adapted to the harsh climate live on the continent

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Antarctic organisms as a source of antimicrobial compounds

With its approximately 14 million km², Antarctica is the fourth largest continent on Earth after Asia, America and Africa and is surrounded by three oceans: the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian. Except for a few very limited areas, Antarctica is completely covered by the Antarctic ice sheet, with an average thickness of 1600 meters; furthermore, the Antarctic pack ice extends around the entire continent.

Antarctica therefore has 98% of its territory covered by ice and this makes it the coldest and most inhospitable continent on the planet: it is the only one where there are no stable inhabitants. Only plants and animals that have adapted to the harsh climate live on the continent, among which penguins, seals, 85 species of mosses, 200 species of lichens, 28 species of fungi, 25 species of Marchantiophyta, and many types of algae were known in 1993.

Antarctic organisms as a source of antimicrobial compounds: a patent review, study published on the Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências, said: "Currently, antimicrobial resistance has become a global public health problem, which has made the need for new antimicrobial compounds to deal with resistant infections an emergency.

However, environments that once offered so many innovative molecules, now already exhaustively exploited, do not meet this In this context, a geographically isolated, under-explored and extreme environment, such as Antarctica, which holds organisms with unique physiological and biochemical characteristics, assumes great importance as a potential source of new compounds with antimicrobial activity.

We investigate the state of technological development in the field of antimicrobial compounds obtained from Antarctic organisms, highlighting the main countries and researchers active in the field, the species utilized, the compounds obtained, and their possible therapeutic applications.

As results, few patent documents were found, however they encompass a wide diversity of compounds and species, indicating a great antimicrobial potential present in Antarctic biota, including compounds active against the most important human pathogenic microorganisms, such as including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus spp.

and multi-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Furthermore, due to the increasing trend in patent applications, a significant rise in the number of patents in this area is expected in the coming years."