Prof William Fenical with colleagues from the University of California San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography first collected Streptomyces sp. – a marine microorganism that produces the compound – in 2012 from sediments close to shore off Santa Barbara, California.
Using an analytical technique known as spectroscopy, they then deciphered the unusual structure of a molecule isolated from Streptomyces sp. Initial testing of the compound, which they named Anthracimycin, revealed its potency as a killer of anthrax and the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
The importance of this discovery is both in the chemical’s uniqueness and the fact that discoveries of this nature don’t come along very often. It’s already been proposed to use this compound to synthesize a new line of drugs to treat anthrax and MRSA … though I can’t help shake the feeling that once we do (and it becomes standard practice to overuse it in hospitals from coast to coast), it’s only a matter of time before something even more lethal comes along, and we’re stuck scrounging once again.
Sometimes evolution sucks like that. But hey, we never said it needed to work in our favor.