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UNCW Researchers looking to kill 'superbugs'

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TWC News: UNCW Researchers looking to kill 'superbugs'
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WILMINGTON -- Bacteria and fungi known as "superbugs" are killing tens of thousands of people every year. UNC Wilmington researchers from the MARBIONC Marine Biotechnology Research Program are working to develop antibiotics to target superbugs.

"The way that we can try and find new antibiotics is by going to novel places such as the ocean," said UNCW Chemistry Graduate student Justin Isaacs.

Isaccs said it's a scientist's dream to have the ocean as your backyard when it comes to exploring the world below to find new species of organisms that can help make antibiotics.

"I may not have found the next cure for cancer but could have found something else," Isaacs.

Right now, the researchers in the MARBIONC Program are working to develop new antibiotics. Antibiotics that kill drug resistant strains of bacteria and fungi or superbugs. Superbugs like strep throat, pneumonia and staff infection are common illnesses that are all becoming drug resistant as they evolve over time.

"If we have antibiotic resistant pathogens in our hospitals then there is going to be more people getting sick and more people die because people die every day from these antibiotic resistant bacteria," said Isaacs.

So far the researchers are seeing results by pulling marine bacteria from the ocean that have proven to be new sources for drugs, but the researchers said they need new places to explore. But as the country's budget tightens, so does the budget for science, which is hurting new discoveries.

"The newer the environment you look in, the newer techniques you can use to sample that environment, the more likely you are to find a new blockbuster antibiotic drug," said Wendy Strangman, Associate Research Professor with MARBIONC.

The budget crunch comes down to researchers competing for grants like the Pepsi Refresh Grant. They are competing for $50,000 that could help save lives.

"It is exciting because we're in the frontier of developing new antibiotics that could one day revolutionize our health care system," said Isaacs.

You can help by voting for the MARBIONC grant proposal online or by texting 105313 to Pepsi (73774) every day throughout January.

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