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Understanding underground biodiversity in the Azores - a perspective 

Tecnologias Alimentares e Saúde

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Referência

CÂMARA, S., BAPTISTA, I., VARELA, A. R., DAPKEVICIUS, M. L. N. E., AMORIM, I., PEREIRA, F. & NORTHUP, D.
1as Jornadas Científicas do Instituto de Biotecnologia e Biomedicina dos Açores
Angra do Heroísmo, 25-26 de Setembro, 2008

Resumo

Since 1990 there is a growing local and international interest for the volcanic cavities in Azores. In 1998 the Regional Government of Azores created a workgroup whose aim was to characterize some of those cavities – the GESPEA, or Grupo para o Estudo do Património Espeleológico dos Açores. A the moment, there are over 260 caves described in the archipelago, and there are ongoing studies about their animal and plant biodiversity. Some of the mentioned cavities are part of a regional network of protected areas. The distribution and the population dynamics of cave microbiota has been at issue in recent years. Preliminary work in USA caves of volcanic origin revealed a large microbial diversity, including several new microorganisms. Volcanic caves with organic matter input and constant levels of humidity and temperature such as the ones in Terceira Island, Açores, are rich in Actynomicetes. This group of microorganisms, including a great diversity of yet uncharacterized lineages of the subgroup Streptomyces, are the source of most of the antibiotics presently in use and were found to be the most abundant colonizers of such caves. Actinomycete metabolites have been found to have various bioactive properties: anti-tumor, anti-diabetes, antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial activity. Although the antibacterial activity of actinomycete metabolites is well established, it is still an important issue, due to the development of resistant strains of pathogens. Recently, our work team has observed that Azorean caves are very rich in biofilms, which are yet to be fully characterized. We found that some of the bacteria present in these biofilms are active against human pathogens and may be promising sources of antibiotics for the treatment of infectious diseases in humans. These bacteria were isolated from areas with less human impact. The number of visitors of the caves has increased in recent years, which may alter the air quality and bring new microorganisms into the cavities, changing the natural balance that allows the biofilms to proliferate and ultimately leading to a loss of biodiversity.

Quinta, 25 Setembro, 2008

Equipa

Maria de Lurdes Nunes Enes Dapkevicius
Membro Integrado com contrato
Sandra Paula de Aguiar Câmara
Aluno de Doutoramento
Ana Rita Boura Varela
Antigo membro

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