16 Feb 2013

NZ seabed eyed in search for new antibiotics

8:43 am on 16 February 2013

British researchers spending £8 million to discover new antibiotics say they will search for undiscovered chemicals among life which has evolved in New Zealand's deep sea trenches.

Professor Marcel Jaspars says the team led by Aberdeen University hopes to find "the next generation" of infection-fighting drugs, the BBC reports.

Medical authorities have recently warned of an "antibiotic apocalypse" with too few new drugs under development.

Researchers believe there is great potential for discovering antibiotics in tiny organisms which have evolved in ocean trenches - deep, narrow valleys in the sea floor that can plunge down to almost 11km.

The international team will use fishing vessels to drop sampling equipment on a reel of cables to the trench bed to collect sediment.

Scientists will then attempt to grow unique bacteria and fungi from the sediment which can be extracted and refined to screen for potential new antibiotics.

They will start in Atacama Trench 160km off the coast of Chile and Peru. The EU-funded research will also search deep trenches off New Zealand as well waters off the Antarctic.