Plastic waste is rich in biomass and could therefore be a good candidate for the production of antibiotics.
Billions and billions of plastic pieces, large and small, pollute our oceans and pose a serious threat to marine ecosystems. Worse still, up to 13 million tonnes of plastic waste continues to end up in the oceans each year: from large floating debris to microplastics.
However, some of this heavy pollution can be useful because microbes that attach to floating plastic debris can form entire ecosystems, scientists say.
“Plastic waste is rich in biomass and could therefore be a good candidate for the production of antibiotics, which tends to occur in highly competitive natural environments,” says a new team of student-led scientists who worked in collaboration with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. . .
Investigating the potential of plastic debris in the ocean to be a source of new antibiotics, researchers modified Tiny Earth’s citizen science approach to marine conditions by incubating high- and low-density polyethylene plastic, commonly found in shopping bags, in seawater near Scripps Pier in La Jolla, California, over a three-month period.
Antibiotic-producing bacteria in plastic waste
Researchers have isolated five antibiotic-producing bacteria from plastic waste, including strains of Bacillus, Phaeobacter Yes Vibrio. They then tested the bacterial isolates “against a variety of Gram-positive and negative targets, and found the isolates to be effective against commonly used bacteria, as well as 2 antibiotic-resistant strains,” they explain.
“Given the current antibiotic crisis and the rise of superbugs, it is essential to seek alternative sources of new antibiotics,” said Andrea Price, a researcher at National University in San Diego, California. “We hope to expand this project and further characterize the microbes and the antibiotics they produce,” adds Price.
Although the project is still in its initial phase, it could generate new antibiotics against various disease-causing pathogens. If and when that happens, plastic litter in the oceans will ultimately have some benefit, albeit marginal compared to the serious damage it inflicts on the environment.
By Daniel T. Cross. Articles in English