Bacteria found in remote Siberian caves could lead to fresh sources of antibiotics needed in the fight against drug-resistant superbugs. Edward Baran reports.
It's not an obvious place to be looking for solutions in the fight against drug resistant superbugs. But scientists have identified these caves in southern Siberia as providing part of the answer. They contain thousands of micro-organisms which have not changed for millions of years, their eco-systems isolated from external influences. SOUNDBITE (Russian) SENIOR RESEARCHER IN BIOLOGY SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH INSTITUTE OF IRKUTSK STATE UNIVERSITY, DENIS AKSENOV-GRIBANOV, SAYING: "Many of the caves in Baikal region are older than the Baikal lake, over 30 million years old. Our research is dedicated to how the bacteria formed and been preserved for 30-40 million years and what they produce." Few new antibiotics have been developed since the so-called 'golden age' of discovery in the 1950s and 60s and the efficacy of existing drugs is declining. But these researchers at Irkutsk State University have already used the micro-organisms to develop a number of new antibiotics which are in the final stages of development. Some are being used in chicken farming, but the hope is to eventually enter the human drugs industry - and help avoid a possible post-antibiotic age.