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Bacteria produces chemicals with anti-cancer properties. (Photo: RPC/FIS)

Researchers discover bacteria that could fight cancer in humans

Click on the flag for more information about Canada CANADA
Monday, January 09, 2012, 00:30 (GMT + 9)

Certain strains of bacteria from the Bay of Fundy could combat cancer in humans. The discovery came about as researchers sought ways to help protect farmed salmon from infection in the hatchery stage.

"We've isolated some compounds and they show anti-cancer activity and show some anti-bacterial activity as well," said Ben Forward, leader of the fish health research group at the Research and Productivity Council (RPC) in Fredericton.

He said it could be years before they see any results that could be used to actually treat cancer, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal reports.

The researchers have started growing more of the bacteria to allow for additional work to verify the structure of the compound and determine how it would affect different types of cancers.

"We're in the discovery and proof-of-concept stage," said Forward.

Their work began years ago as an attempt to help the aquaculture industry diversify beyond farmed salmon. Researchers were investigating how to develop probiotic bacteria that could boost the survival of larval finfish such as cod and haddock in the hatchery stage.

Farmed salmon are first raised in fish hatcheries, and because these fish do not yet have immune systems, they cannot be vaccinated against bacterial infections.

"So we developed probiotic bacteria, to help protect them against disease outcrops and to improve their survival," Forward said.

He said that was when a collaboration with a North Carolina-based marine natural products chemist incited questions about the bacteria’s health benefits for humans.

Forward’s research partner discovered that the bacteria produced chemicals that test positive for antibiotic and anti-cancer properties, CBC News reports.

They had Dr Jeffrey Wright examine some of the most appealing strains.

"Some of them came back as pretty interesting positives," Forward said. "Now we're taking the most interesting ones, and growing them up into a larger amount so we can produce more of the compound to do more of the testing ... and carry the work further."

Researchers at the RPC lab have collected a living library of deep-frozen marine bacteria species from the Bay of Fundy and other areas of the Atlantic.

Genetic testing suggests that a dozen species are new to science, they told, and these bacteria may represent a brand new set of drugs being created naturally.

"The neat thing about bacteria is that they can have quite complex biochemistries, which allows them to synthesize some very complicated molecules that you probably couldn't synthesize or probably would have a lot of difficulty synthesizing in the lab, probably at great expense," Forward added.

By Natalia Real
[email protected]
www.fis.com


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