Mr. Carlo Chris Apurillo presenting the results of their study during the NRCP Regional Basic Research Caravan in Tacloban City.

Some 22 fungi species living in mangroves have been isolated and identified by experts to produce compounds that can be used for drug creation. These fungi are called endophytes which are microbes that reside inside host plants.

“There is an urgent need to develop new and effective agents to treat infectious diseases particularly drug-resistant bacterial infections which is now a growing threat to human health,” said Mr. Carlo Chris Apurillo who reported on behalf of their research’s team leader Thomas Edison dela Cruz during NRCP Regional Basic Research Caravan last January 15, 2020 at Leyte Normal University in Tacloban City.

Mr. Apurillo added that the Philippines has witnessed a spike in the number of drug-resistant tuberculosis cases from 425 in 2016 to 505 in 2017 according to the data of the Department of Health.

The World Health Organization in 2017 published priority pathogen list including 12 classes of bacteria plus tuberculosis that are resistant to most existing treatments. WHO added that never has the threat of antimicrobial resistance been more immediate and the need for solutions more urgent.

Countries began to step up in innovations to develop new antibiotic agents to counter drug resistance. In the Philippines, researchers began exploring rare environments such as mangrove forests which are known for their microbial, chemical and biological diversity. This project of Dr. dela Cruz and team is one of them, which was funded by the NRCP in line with its one of priority research programs called LIKAS (Likas Yaman sa Kalusugan) which covers fundamental studies on potential sources of natural products from rare environments.

NRCP has funded another ground breaking research that extracted novel bacteria from marine sediments which produce bioactive compounds found effective against the Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Enterobacter cloacae, (i.e., the ESKAPE pathogens).

In the research of Dr. dela Cruz, 22 fungus endophytes extracted from the mangrove forests in Samar and Leyte were found to have the capability to fight at least one of the test pathogenic microorganisms but two taxa Pestalotiopsis microspora and Lasiodiplodia theobromae are of particular interest among the experts. These fungus endophytes showed strong antimicrobial activities against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a type of germ of great importance in health care which causes infections in the blood and lungs (pneumonia). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2017, multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa caused an estimated 32,600 infections among hospitalized patients and 2,700 estimated deaths in the United States.

Dr. dela Cruz said that the next step in their study is to isolate, purify, and identify the bioactive metabolites from the organisms and determine the exact mode of action by these compounds.

The presentation of results funded by NRCP is an initiative by the Council to promote the importance of basic and frontier research across the regions and the use of evidence-based policy making among relevant stakeholders.