10 Weirdest Sources for Antibiotics

Ocean Sediment
Ocean sediment yields a microorganism that can be used to create a drug to fight anthrax. iStock/Thinkstock

Anthrax, a microbe that can cause a victim to develop a fatal buildup of fluid in the lungs, is something that we're all afraid of, and for good reason. When some malicious person sent a bunch of letters tainted with anthrax through the mail in 2001, 11 people were hospitalized, and five of them ended up dying [source: NIH].

And although anthrax infections can be treated with existing antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin, there's always the possibility that terrorists might create a strain resistant to those drugs. That's one reason why researchers at the Scripps Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine, working in conjunction with San Diego-based Trius Therapeutics, were excited about the discovery of a new compound, anthracimycin, that initial testing showed to be a potent killer of both anthrax and MRSA. Anthracimycin, oddly enough, is produced by a microorganism that the researchers discovered lurking in ocean sediments, just off the shores of Santa Barbara, Calif. [source: Aguilera].

Possibly because it comes from such an unlikely place, anthracimycin's chemical structure is very different from existing antibiotics [source: Redfern]. That might make it a lot tougher for microbes to become resistant to it.