18. Investigating the Microbiota from Unique Wetland Ecosystems

Varun Rachakonda, Aarti Raja, Ph.D., Paul Baldauf, Ph.D.
Nova Southeastern University

Florida, with its humidity, wetlands, and rich nutrient soil, is a perfect location for microorganisms to thrive. However, within these systems, competition does exist. As a result, microorganisms produce a variety of secondary metabolites with antibiotic activity, for protection. In our current era, bacterial resistance to existing antibiotics is a major health problem worldwide, diminishing the supply of effective antibiotics. Infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria are becoming harder to treat compared to non-drug resistant bacteria. We believe that the Everglades has ecosystems that may harbor unique microorganisms capable of producing novel compounds. Our hypothesis is that going to unusual ecosystems, such as those found in the Everglades, we have a higher probability of finding novel microbes producing undiscovered antibiotics. We will collect soil samples from Water Conservation Area 3B in the eastern Everglades. We plan to test the hypothesis, first, by analyzing the genetic makeup of the soil microbiome. Secondly, we plan to test for antibiotic production from the organisms found in the soil. We will then assess if these organisms can produce antibiotic compounds with activity against clinically relevant organisms. In collaboration with the Tiny Earth consortia of researchers, a chemical analysis of the compounds will be conducted.