Natural Medicine Discoveries Gain Momentum


Natural medicine discoveries gain momentum as academic microbiologists use modern technology to assist in their hunt for ways of winning the war over superbug-killing bacteria. Today, more than half of the medicine used to treat an illness or disease resulted from an inspiration or originated from plants, animals, or bacteria.

A major change is taking place where contemporary gene-sequencing machines are capable of reading microbial DNA, inexpensively and fast. This emerging technology opens doors in an innovative field called genome mining; a broadening frontier responsible for spurring an interest and quest for discovering natural medicine in remote locations around the world.

The quest for natural medicine

It is highly imperative to find new natural medicine to help in preventing and fighting off infections from viruses like the Ebola of West Africa and tuberculosis in South Africa. Sadly, South African people who developed tuberculosis are sent home to die because antibiotics used to stave off the disease have designed a resistance to the current antibiotics. Moreover, scientists and medical professionals are frantic in trying to find medicine to kill the Ebola virus and save people’s lives.

While a myriad of people are working hard at fighting antibiotic resistant viruses and other diseases, some researchers have stepped up in their quest for discovering new ways to use what nature offers as a source of medicine.

Researchers at John Innes Centre (JIC) in Norwich, United Kingdom suggest that taking bacteria from remote places around the world, as well as extracts from plants and animals may lead to new drugs to fight off infections that are now resistant to current medicine.

Natural medicine cures

Natural medicine has helped humankind for thousands of years.

For example, historical records left by ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, described using willow bark powder to relieve fever and pain. The extracts of willow bark powder ultimately helped in creating aspirin.

Microorganisms collected from Easter Island soil resulted in the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, developing Rapamune, or sirolimus, an ingredient used to help in preventing kidney transplant rejections.

On Mount Ararat, in Turkey, scientists discovered and collected microbes in the soil. The microbes are being used in an antibiotic called Cubicin.

In fact, a species of bacteria found in soil called Streptomyces was used to create the antibiotic Streptomycin, which saved countless of lives of tuberculosis victims until the causing bacteria became immune to the antibiotic.

There are over five million, trillion, trillion types of bacteria in and around the planet available for humans to target compounds to create new microbes to fight diseases.

Professor of molecular microbiology at John Innes Centre, Mervyn Bibb explains, “Natural products fell out of favor in the pharmaceutical sphere, but now is the time to look again. We need to think ecologically, which traditionally people haven’t been doing.”  Professor Bibb is collaborating with other chemists and geneticists in the quest for natural medicines, predominantly new clinically useful antibiotics.

In addition, Britain University of Aberdeen’s, professor of organic chemistry, Marcel Jaspars contends, “Essentially, we’re looking for isolated populations of organisms. They will have evolved differently and therefore hopefully produce new chemistry.”

Professor Jaspars and his international team of researchers launched a project entitled PharmaSea. The team is in search of unknown bacteria that has yet to see daylight. The researchers are dragging sediment and mud samples from the Antarctic, Arctic waters around Norway, and Pacific Ocean deep-sea trenches where they hope to find gigantic populations of microbes to be used in creating new antibiotics capable of fighting off diseases that are now resistant to the present-day antibiotics.

The field is rapidly expanding

DNA analysis, combined with the understanding of genetic coding creates many possibilities in reversing the hold on human life by present-day antimicrobial resistant bacteria and viruses.

However, policymakers and large pharmaceutical companies do not find antibacterial research and products profitable.  For that matter, billions of dollars are spent on research and development of commercially successful medicine.

Nonetheless, as more threats to human life by bacteria and viruses resistant to our current medicine continues to grow, perhaps additional insightful, knowledgeable, and dedicated people and organizations will continue their quest for natural medicine, find it, and create innovative and improved remedies capable of saving precious human life.

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George Zapo, CPH
George Zapo, CPH is certified in Public Health Promotion & Education. George focuses on writing informative articles promoting healthy behavior and lifestyles. Read more of George's articles at his website: