Multiresistant germs are one of the biggest challenges to modern medicine. Researchers hope to fight them with biological weapons, made by nature. An Indonesian marine slug could help them.
The latest trend in the fight against multiresitant germs goes back to the very roots of Mother Nature. German and Indonesian researchers hope to find natural substances in Indonesian wildlife that act as an antiinfectant. In other words: they want to extract new forms of antibiotics from plants, insects and marine life.
Multiresistant germs have become one of the biggest challenges to modern medicine. This past January, twelve patients died in a German hospital in Kiel. All of them had become infected with the same multiresistant germ. The case caused a stir throughout Germany: suddenly, multiresistant germs had become a real threat in Kiel, Germany, Europe.
Till Schäberle, researcher at Bonn University, hopes to find a new way to fight these germs. In August, he and his team will leave for Indonesia, to collect and analyze sea slugs. "We already know that these slugs are protected against microbial infestation naturally. We assume that a certain type of bacteria lives on them and produces an antibiotic substance", Schäberle told DW.
Schäberle's aim is to indentify and extract these bacteria, the "original producers" of the antiinfectant that shields the slugs from their enemies. He then wants to get the bacteria to reproduce in his laboratory. Potentially, a new antibiotic will be developed that interferes with the multiresistant germs' reproduction cycle. It might be much more potent than today's antibiotics, Schäberle said.
Schäberle's is only one of many research projects that will be carried out in Indonesia. Monika Huber of VDI/VDE-IT, the organization that runs the research initiative, said in an interview with DW: "The researchers will test fungi, plants, insects and marine organisms for their ability to produce anti-infectant substances,"
German authorities seem keen to push the project. The Ministry of Education and Research will spend more than seven million euros on the German-Indonesian collaboration between now and 2018.
In August, the German researchers will start their work in Indonesia together with their colleagues at Sam Ratulangi University, Manado. It is to be hoped that they will find what they are looking for: potent substances to effectively fight multiresistant germs. The process of developing a new antibiotic from these natural substances will take time, however. Ideally, Schäberle says, it will come on the market in around ten years.