Web Zap*Germs Archive

May 31, 2005

Seeking Germ Killers in Lake Michigan

To the news that researchers are seeking MRSA-killing antibiotics in exotic underwater bacteria, add the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee folks who are plumbing the depths of nearby Lake Michigan. Biologist Yi-Qiang "Eric" Cheng and grad student Melissa Barman are scouring their "backyard" lake for useful bacteria.
Collectively, the Great Lakes represent the largest freshwater body in the world. But, according to Cheng, they have not been systematically scoured for drugs. That is surprising considering almost every other imaginable ecological niche has been searched - including rain forest floors, deep ocean vents, volcanic mouths and the Arctic's frozen tundra.

"People have been looking in every conceivable exotic environment," he said. "I figured that since we were here, just a few blocks from Lake Michigan, we should look there."
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article also contains this insightful stat: "According to Steven Projan, assistant vice president for protein technologies at Wyeth, only seven new anti-bacterials have been approved since 1998. In 2004, of 290 drugs that major pharmaceutical companies were developing, only four were antibiotics."


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