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Antimalarial substances found in New Caledonian sponges

Marine organisms synthesize many different substances, some of which possess anticarcinogenic, antiviral or antiparasitic properties. Only 1% of recorded marine species have had their chemical composition analysed. IRD scientists and their partners (1) have investigated the chemical structure of substances extracted from New Caledonian sponges. They demonstrated antimalarial activity in 25 members of the phloeodictine family of alkaloids, isolated from one of the species of shallow-water sponge present in lagoon. Laboratory tests showed these substances to be active against a chloroquine-resistant strain of Plasmodium falciparum, the pathological agent of malaria. These substances with hitherto unknown structures have potential as starting material for elaborating novel antimalarial medicines. Living organisms are an enormous reservoir of natural compounds potentially active against viruses, bacteria or cancerous cells, that could lead to the development of new medicines. Out of about 145 000 natural substances described today, 10% come from marine organisms. Among the few such organisms studied for their chemical composition, sponges of the genus Phloeodictyon (Haploscleridae) collected in shallow New Caledonian waters during campaigns of the programme "Marine Substances of Biological Interest" (SMIB), have proved to contain particular organic compounds, the phloeodictines, alkaloids with powerful antibacterial properties (2). Up to now, only deep-water species of Phloeodictyon were thought to synthesize these alkaloids, present in all the samples of such bathyal forms taken from an array of seamounts off the southern sector of New Caledonia. However, phloeodictines have recently been found in shallow-water Oceanapia (a taxonomic synonym of Phloeodictyon) species living on the reef off the east coast of New Caledonia, by a joint scientific team involving the IRD, the University of Trente (Italy), the CNRS and the industrial group Pierre
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Contact: Bndicte Robert
presse@paris.ird.fr
33-148-037-519
Institut de Recherche Pour le Dveloppement
21-Jul-2004


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