Health and Fitness

Soil from Mt. Mayon May Have Anti-Cancer and Antibacterial Properties, DOST Says

It’s a “jackpot” find.
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Soil samples collected from Mount Mayon in Albay have shown antibiotic and anti-cancer properties, the Department of Science and Technology said. 

In a news release posted on its Facebook page, the DOST said researchers from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) have identified a specific bacterial species from the soils of Mt. Mayon that has shown potential antibiotic and anti-colorectal cancer activities. The species is just one of 30 bacteria that were isolated from soil samples of Mt. Mayon in Malilipot, Albay.

“We have high hopes of getting new and novel species because this is a less explored environment, a volcano,” said Kristel Mae P. Oliveros, project leader and an assistant professor in UPLB Microbiology Division. “We were totally surprised and excited.”

A new species

The scientists—which include Oliveros and her coworker Albert Remus R. Rosana, who is currently a PhD student at the University of Alberta, Canada—are confirming whether Streptomyces sp. A1-08 is, indeed, a new species. If so, it will be named “Streptomyces mayonensis A1-08” after the volcano.

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Of the 30 bacterial species researchers have initially isolated from Mt. Mayon’s volcanic soils, 13 have shown varying antibiotic activities in different test organisms that were known as pathogenic to humans or plants. The test organisms are Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus and its methicillin-resistant variant, Candida albicans, Aspergillus niger, and an unspecified Fusarium species.

Since those 30 bacterial species thrive in a unique environment such as Mt. Mayon’s unique volcanic environment, the research team assumes that the soils will most likely produce unique chemical compounds that may have medical, pharmaceutical, and even cosmeceutical uses. Streptomyces species in general are known to produce medically and pharmaceutically important products, the DOST said.

Streptomyces sp. A1-08 has stood out, however, because “it has shown antagonistic effects on all test microorganisms and the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or simply MRSA. Abundant in hospitals, MRSA is strongly resistant against antibiotics which makes treatment of infections more difficult. In fact, the WHO has declared antimicrobial resistance as one of the top 10 global threats to public health.”

“One of the objectives of the study is to screen actinomycete isolates for antimicrobial activity,” Asst. Prof. Oliveros said. “Therefore, we ensured that our selected test organisms would represent some of the major groups of microorganisms, including bacteria, yeasts, and molds to capture a broader antimicrobial spectrum result.”

“The choice of test organisms was also associated with World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of human pathogens that post eminent danger to human health by 2050, mainly due to antibiotic resistance,” Rosana added.

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Anti-cancer drug 

According to the DOST release, Streptomyces sp. A1-08’s nature in fighting off MRSA led to the research team to study it further and using the anti-colorectal cancer test and genomic analysis. However, compared to chemotherapy drug doxorubicin, crude extracts from Streptomyces sp. A1-08 suggested low potency in the anti-colorectal cancer test. 

“It is good to remember that the positive control doxorubicin is a pure, proven and tested commercially available chemotherapy drug. In contrast, the ethyl acetate extract of [Streptomyces sp.] A1-08 which we have used in the study, [is] a crude extract, and therefore still a complex mixture and may contain multitude of raw compounds at different concentrations,” Asst. Prof. Oliveros explained.

The good news is that those raw compounds can be purified further to develop an exact anticancer drug.

Although the findings are groundbreaking, with Asst. Prof. Oliveros even calling them as a “jackpot,” the researchers said the discovery must lead to more research.

“Way forward, further studies should be made for us to establish that this novel species can likewise produce novel bioactive compounds,” she mentioned. “Future rigorous research in drug chemistry combined with metabolomics (or the study of metabolites involved in chemical processes happening in an organism) are vital to claim that the secondary metabolites produced by our isolate is totally new and hopefully effective as a chemotherapy drug,” she said.

Oliveros said she was honored to be working on the discovery and extending it to industrial applications, “to showcase the known and great potential of the Philippines as a promising land that harbor natural products for drug discovery.”

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Joining Rosana and Oliveros in their groundbreaking work are Andrew D. Montecillo, Dr. Rina B. Opulencia, Arian J. Jacildo, Dr. Asuncion K. Raymundo, and the late Dr. Teofila O. Zulaybar, who are all from UPLB.

 

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Paul John Caña
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