Medicines from the Sea


When you’ve got a bacterial infection like
pink eye or strep throat, your doctor will usually write a prescription for antibiotics
to make you feel better. But have you ever wondered where these medicines come from? Most drugs come from flowers and plants on
land, but finding new sources is difficult. And some bacteria have become resistant to
a few of these drugs — so much in fact that these drugs don’t work any more. The ocean — with its amazing biodiversity — offers many more organisms for scientists to discover and develop new medicines. NOAA scientists have been collecting and studying
sponges, corals, and other marine organisms. They and their partners discovered a chemical
that breaks down the shield that bacteria use to protect themselves from antibiotics.
Used as a helper drug, antibiotics that are no longer effective would once again be able
to fight off these resistant bacteria. NOAA scientists have also extracted chemicals
from corals and sponges that fight some of the worst infectious bacteria. In order to
make these new antibiotics, scientists make copies of these chemicals in a laboratory.
This way they won’t have to constantly harvest corals from the ocean, leaving our marine
ecosystems healthy and intact. The ocean may hold the key for finding new
medicines, but not if we don’t keep it — and everything that lives there — healthy and pollution free. Do your part to protect coral reefs. Do not buy coral jewelry or home décor. And when snorkeling, fishing, or scuba diving, be careful to not touch or disrupt coral beds or the sea floor. The next cure could be hidden there.

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