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Ms. Teofila O. Zulaybar presenting the results of her research on actinomycetes.

A remarkable type of bacteria called actinomycetes known to produce the bioactive compounds needed for the development of antibiotics is found abundant in the Philippine mangrove ecosystems.  This is by far the promising result of the study by NRCP researcher Teofila O. Zulaybar after her research team was able to isolate the said compounds from actinomycetes from mangrove areas in 10 provinces of the country.

Ms. Zulaybar’s research was driven by a new global trend in pharmaceutical research which involves exploring the untapped natural environments such as deep oceans, deserts, the polar regions and mangrove rainforests in search of new bioactive compounds.  “The Philippines being a biodiversity hotspot has diverse sources of bioactive compounds which could bring huge benefits to human and animal health research,” Ms. Zulaybar added. 

A separate study1 by a group of Chinese researchers cited 73 novel compounds that have recently been isolated from actinomycetes found in mangrove ecosystems in addition to 49 known compounds currently used for drug discovery.  This bold step is in response to address the rising global issue on antibiotic-resistant pathogens. The researchers explained that the marine environments, mangroves in particular, offer great research value because this rich microbial community produces different types of fascinating natural products for the development of new generation antibiotics and antitumor agents.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) accounts that of the world’s more than 70 mangrove species, around 46 species are found in various parts of the Philippines.

Ms. Zulaybar tested the efficacy of the compounds isolated from actinomycetes obtained from mangroves to treat mastitis in cows by targeting methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), its main causal organism. MRSA is a bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics.  Staphylococcus and MRSA can cause a variety of problems ranging from skin infections, pneumonia to bloodstream infections. 

In dairy cattle, mastitis is the inflammation of the mammary gland and udder tissue of a cow. The milk-secreting tissues and ducts surrounding the udder are damaged by toxins secreted by the pathogenic organisms and consequently contaminate the milk. Contaminated milk is normally thrown away as it is unfit for human consumption. Mastitis treatment and control are costly and demand intensive labor to tend cows with mastitis as the disease is easily transmitted by contact with the milking machine and through contaminated hands and housing materials.  Aside from MRSA, other pathogenic organisms that cause mastitis include: Streptococcus agalactiae, coliforms (e.g. Escherichia coli, Klebsiella species, Enterobacter species, etc.), Streptococcus species and Pseudomonas species.

Interestingly, Ms. Zulaybar was also able to screen which of the actinomycetes isolates are more effective in inhibiting the growth of different organisms other than MRSA that cause mastitis.  Analysis of the biochemical properties of these actinomycete isolates is still ongoing and eventually will be ready for patent application this year.

Ms. Zulaybar said that that the isolates could serve as a new line of drug arsenal for veterinary health use. She also revealed that the next step of her study would be the formulation of antibiotic cream, ointment or an injectible form using the isolated bioactive compound from actinomycetes for treating mastitis in dairy cattle.  

She also called for other researchers to engage more in bioprospecting of novel microorganisms from rare environments that are yet to be studied in which potentially valuable compounds may be obtained for medicinal use and drug development.

The results of Ms. Zulaybar’s study, which is funded by NRCP, were presented during the Policy Forum on Science-based Policy Recommendation towards Holistic Approaches in the Control of Livestock Diseases last December 2016 in celebration of NRCP’s 83rd Anniversary.  

Reference:
1.    Xu, Dong-Bo, Ye, Wan-Wan, Han, Ying, Deng, Zi-Xin, and Hong, Kui. 2014. Natural products from mangrove actinomycetes. Marine Drugs, Vol. 12(5); pp. 2590–2613.

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