SCIENTISTS should hunt for new sources to develop medicines that could effectively combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR), urged a team from the UST Department of Chemistry whose work on studying a fungus against AMR won best scientific poster in Vietnam.

Asst. Prof. Melfei Bungihan told the Varsitarian there is an urgent need to mitigate AMR, which the World Health Organization (WHO) described as a “silent pandemic.”

“It has been speculated that by 2050, drug resistance can kill more people than war and famine combined,” she said. “So we have to start now before we wait for 2050.”

Bungihan and fellow faculty member Prof. Mario Tan served as advisers to alumnus John Vincent Gonzales for his research examining how Rhizophora apiculata Blume, or mangrove leaves, which contains endophytes – a fungus that lives in plant tissues, creating a symbiotic relationship with its host without any adverse effects – could kill drug-resistant bacteria, raising the potential to be a new source for antibiotics.

The WHO recorded more than five million deaths due to AMR in 2015.

The Department of Health attributed inappropriate treatment, inadequate drug supply and self-medication as reasons why Filipinos have been suffering from AMR.

The team obtained crude extract from mangrove leaves to isolate the endophyte before testing whether it could inhibit Enterobacter cloacae, a pathogen commonly responsible for urinary tract infections.

During testing, the pathogen was more sensitive to the endophyte than penicillin, indicating that the former could be “an excellent source of bioactive material products” and “attractive to medical chemistry,” the poster read.

“Finding new sources of antimicrobial compounds would be beneficial to the development [of antibiotics] and combat the current crisis we are facing today,” Gonzales told the Varsitarian.

For their work, titled “Bioassay Guided Isolation of Benzoic Acid as Major Antibacterial Constituent of the Endophytic Fungi Fusarium solani,” the team won best scientific poster at this year’s International Conference on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development held at Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam on Aug. 26.

The conference is organized by the Vietnam Association of Science Editing and Nguyen Tat Thanh University, aiming to inform the public about the most recent scientific discoveries and developments in the fields of chemical engineering and industrial biotechnology.  Jenna Mariel A. Gonzales with reports from Sofiah Shelimae J. Aldovino


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