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'What happens in Sibera stays in Siberia...unless it is covered by The Siberian Times'

Lake Baikal and remote Siberian caves 'hold key to new advances in antibiotics'

By Olga Gertcyk
06 April 2016

Scientists make crucial new discoveries of bacteria, up to 30 million years old.

'One of the ways to find something new is to look somewhere where no one has ever looked before.' Picture: Galina Dvoeglazova

A global and highly competitive search is underway for new bacteria strains leading to fresh sources of antibiotics, with 'great potential' for SIberia to lead the way, according to leading scientists. 

Maxim Timofeyev, director of the R&D Biology Institute at Irkutsk State University, said: 'One of the ways to find something new is to look somewhere where no one has ever looked before. 

'We have found two locations which we're studying now. These are ancient caves and Baikal which have not been studied in this regard. Nature is still providing us with a massive area to study.'

Denis Axenov-Gribanov


Strain

Dr Denis V. Axenov-Gribanov, a leading specialist at R&D Biology Institute, heads the study of new microorganisms. Picture: ISU, Denis Axenov-Gribanov

'The search for new microorganisms producing new biologically active substances with antibiotic properties has particularly great potential in Siberia and at Baikal. On the one hand, our lands are far away from global research institutions, and on the other, we have multiple unique locations - unstudied and isolated caves and Lake Baikal with its ancient ecosystem.'

Dr Denis V. Axenov-Gribanov, a leading specialist at the same institute, said: 'One of the features of Siberian caves is that they are rather cold, only 2 to 4C. 

'Among the caves of the Baikal region the most attractive for researchers are ancient and ramified caves such as Botovskaya, Okhotnichya and those of the Tazheranskaya steppe. 

Map of caves


Botovskaya cave


Strain

Among the caves of the Baikal region the most attractive for researchers are ancient and ramified caves such as Botovskaya, Okhotnichya, those of the Tazheranskaya steppe and Bolshaya Oreshnaya complex in Krasnoyarsk region.  Pictures: The Siberian Times, Komanda-K, Denis Axenov-Gribanov

'Each and every cave is unique: Botovskaya cave is the longest cave in Russia, while the caves of the Tazheranskaya steppe date from when the ancient Lake Baikal was only forming, that is over 30 million years ago.' The lake is the oldest - and deepest - in the world. 

'We have collected Baikal's endemic crayfish, caddis, and did a microbiological analysis. Two weeks afterwards, it wasn't yet clear whether there were bacteria. However, later we obtained 30 great strains, about 90% of which were active.'

Another success came at the world largest karstic cave in the Bolshaya Oreshnaya complex in Krasnoyarsk region, examined by Russian and German scientists.

Bolshaya Oreshnaya cave


Bolshaya Oreshnaya cave


Strain

In Bolshaya Oreshnaya complex in Krasnoyarsk region were obtained previously unknown biologically active compounds including antibiotics which inhibit growth of bacteria and fungi. Pictures: Alexander Balalin, Denis Axenov-Gribanov

'We obtained moonmilk substance and found 10 new strains of actinobacterias, producers of several antibiotics, from it,' he said. 'According to the study, they produce previously unknown biologically active compounds including antibiotics which inhibit growth of bacteria and fungi. For example, an active strain produces over 120 compounds, 100 out of which are new and haven't been studied before.' 

He said: 'It is necessary to conduct numerous studies... to turn a compound in a commercial product. It will be essential to go through certain bureaucratic procedures, obtain substantial funding and prove your antibiotic is better, non-toxic and effective, and that you're moving in the right direction.'

Comments (1)

Tremendous scientific investigation and discovery work by everyone involved. Thank you for sharing your approach and preliminary findings. As a bioengineer and nature lover, I totally agree we have much to learn from nature and Siberia is one of nature's unexplored treasure troves of knowledge. All the best and I hope you are able to continue your research and I look forward to hearing more about your learnings.
Pamela Tetarenko, League City, USA
06/04/2016 21:34
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