"The half life of marinomycins in UV light is 90 seconds. When we shine the UV light on it when in the dried pollen shells, after seven hours there’s no sign of any decomposition. It’s a very important discovery."
The technique strips away the components of pollen associated with allergies before using them as a suit of armour for the powerful antibiotics.
Grahame Mackenzie added: “We are extremely excited by it. This was a serendipitous meeting of three people with different areas of expertise which led to a serendipitous finding which will be of good use to all of us.”
A new method for drug delivery?
Pollen is widely used around the world for oral consumption, and because different plant species produce different sized pollen spores, they could be used to protect and deliver a range of different drugs.
The full paper, A Natural Solution to Photoprotection and Isolation of the Potent Polyene Antibiotic, Marinomycin A, was published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Chemical Science.
Professor Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, said: “All the antibiotics that were easy to find and use were discovered many years ago. Resistance to them means that new ones are needed urgently.
“This ingenious research shows a cunning way forward - greatly enhancing the therapeutic potential of naturally occurring substances by giving them protection from degradation that unchecked makes them useless. Congratulations to the team for injection some optimism into this difficult and challenging area of work."
Dr May Copsey, Executive Editor of Chemical Science at the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “Since the development of antibiotics in the early twentieth century, modern medicine has continued to transform the lives of billions of people. Infectious diseases that routinely killed or disabled people only 100 years ago are now easily treatable – something that we now take for granted.
“However, a recent surge in superbugs is compromising the ability to effectively treat new strains of bacteria due to increasing resistance, putting millions at risk.
“Pollen has in the past been subject to much vilification in the media, plaguing the lives of millions with hayfever symptoms each year. Now, there’s a chance to turn the story into something much more positive, thanks to the research of Professor Goss and her team.”
Professor Goss adds: “It is very exciting. Many molecules with potentially useful medicinal properties are dropped due to photoinstability, but now there is huge potential to use pollen encapsulation to stabilise and rescue these potential drugs.”
Also working on the study were Alberto Diego Taboada at Sporomex, who prepared the spores and PhD students of the University of St Andrews, Christopher Bailey and Joseph Zarins-Tutt, two PhD students, who carried out the careful photoprotection experiments.