Alternative to antibiotics found in the Arctic
© RIA Novosti. Alexander Kovalev

Alternative to antibiotics found in the Arctic

New drugs can be created based on bacteriophages isolated from ecosystems in Russia’s Arctic zone to fight infections that are resistant to existing antibiotics.

“Phage therapy is experiencing a rebirth these days. More and more studies are published on the use of bacteriophages to fight infections – especially those caused by bacteria with multiple antibiotic resistance,” says Artemy Goncharov, head of the Laboratory of Functional Genomics and Proteomics of Microorganisms at the Institute of Experimental Medicine (IEM).

The coronavirus pandemic has led to the emergence of bacteria in hospitals that are resistant to existing drugs, so there is a need now to work out an alternative to classic antibiotics to fight nosocomial infections. According to Artemy Goncharov, new drugs can be created, in particular, based on bacteriophages (viruses that parasitize bacterial cells and are capable of destroying them).

“Some time ago, we proposed <…> a strategy that consisted in looking for effective bacteriophages in natural ecosystems. And ecosystems associated with the polar regions of our planet are perhaps the most promising source of bacteriophages, according to our observations. The Arctic and Antarctic could be the main suppliers of highly virulent (capable of causing disease, pathogenic – Ed.) bacteriophages,” the expert added.

According to Goncharov, the results of expeditions to Antarctic revealed that bacteriophages can be found in large numbers in the habitats of birds, including penguins, as well as around freshwater lakes.

“Another part of the research has to do with the search for bacteriophages in permafrost in the Russian Arctic – in particular, in Eastern Siberia. Preliminary studies <...> have shown that bacteriophages can be isolated from samples of paleontological material stored in permafrost,” he said.

According to him, the Institute of Experimental Medicine has put together a biological bank of bacteriophage strains relying on those studies.

“Our next steps will involve testing how effectively these phages can be used to treat infections associated with medical care facilities and infections that are caused by pathogens with extreme multiple drug resistance,” the specialist concluded.