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Microorganisms from the Atacama Desert could cure HIV

30 November 2017

Microorganisms from the Atacama Desert could cure HIV

A study published in the Journal Extremophiles shows that a group of microorganisms in Chile’s Atacama Desert has the potential to treat HIV. The Atacama Desert is one of the highest and driest places on Earth and is subject to a combination of extreme environmental conditions including the world’s highest levels of surface UV radiation.

The researchers have explained these findings from oil samples taken from heights of 3,000 to 5,000 above sea level.

Michael Goodfellow from Newcastle University stated that the study focused on actinobacteria, since they are key species in our ecosystem and are known to be an unparalleled source of bioactive compounds. The research shows that 40% of the actinobacteria captured in the samples could not be identified as they have never been discovered before.

"Surprisingly, we found that this landscape is an extraordinary repository for actinobacterial 'dark matter' - which comprises the vast majority of microbes that microbiologists are currently unable to cultivate" 

"This microbial seed bank represents an enormous untapped resource for biotechnology programmes, especially in an era where resistance to existing antibiotics is rapidly becoming a major threat to global health," - Goodfellowstated in the study.

The team also found one strain of bacteria that is proven to be an inhibitor of an enzyme that allows the HIV virus to reproduce itself.

Goodfellow further explained “this could provide essential clues for the development of anti-HIV drugs.”

Oral candidiasis (usually thrush or erythematous candidosis) is common and is often the initial manifestation of HIV. It is seen in 50% of patients. Herpes simplex, varicella zoster, hairy leukoplakia and Kaposi sarcoma are other oral manifestations of HIV.



Microorganisms discovered from Atacama Desert may combat HIV. (2017). Retrieved 29 November 2017, from

Microorganisms found from Atacama Desert may cure HIV. (2017). Retrieved 29 November 2017, from

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