Antimicrobial activity from marine bacteria in the arctic and sub-arctic

About the project

Novel antimicrobial compounds are important in many aspects such as to develop new preservatives or find possible drug leads. The need for discoveries of novel compounds that could serve as future antibiotics is widely recognized. The marine environment, which covers around 70% of the earth’s surface, comprises many different ecosystems. Some of them, such as submarine geothermal areas, have unusual characteristics and therefore an
interesting subject of bioprospecting. This project focuses on detecting antimicrobial activity from bacterial symbionts of marine benthic organisms, such as sponges, sea anemones or algae from sites in connection with geothermal areas.
Samples have been collected from the unique hydrothermal vent site in Eyjafjörður (Arnarnesstrýtur) and from Kolbeinsey. Bacterial strains from the samples are then tested against specific strains that are either known for causing spoilage of commercial products (foods, cosmetics) or being human pathogens. 

A variety of bacteria with antimicrobial activity has already been isolated, so clearly these sites are hosting bacteria with interesting properties. The activity also varies significantly, both in strength and which bacteria are affected indicating it is caused by different compounds. The project´s aim is to identify the chemical compounds responsible for the activity, further define the activity and find out the best culturing conditions to stimulate production of the compounds. The isolated compounds will thereafter be tested in products to find out if different conditions will affect their ability to inhibit bacterial growth.


Hjörleifur Einarsson, University of Akureyri, co-ordinator.
Arnheiður Eyþórsdóttir, University of Akureyri, PhD student.


Sesselja S. Ómarsdóttir, University of Iceland.
Elín Soffía Ólafsdóttir, University of Iceland.


Arnheiður Eyþórsdóttir, Sesselja Ómarsdóttir & Hjörleifur Einarsson (2016): Antimicrobial activity of Marine bacterial symbionts retrieved from shallow water hydrothermal vents. Marine Biotechnology 18, 293-300.