Marine sponges are currently one of the richest sources of pharmacologically active compounds found in the marine environment. These bioactive molecules are often secondary metabolites, whose main function is to enable and/or modulate cellular communication and defense. They are usually produced by functional enzyme clusters in sponges and/or their associated symbiotic microorganisms. Natural product lead compounds from sponges have often been found to be promising pharmaceutical agents. Several of them have successfully been approved as antiviral agents for clinical use or have been advanced to the late stages of clinical trials. Most of these drugs are used for the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and herpes simplex virus (HSV). The most important antiviral lead of marine origin reported thus far is nucleoside Ara-A (vidarabine) isolated from sponge Tethya crypta. It inhibits viral DNA polymerase and DNA synthesis of herpes, vaccinica and varicella zoster viruses. However due to the discovery of new types of viruses and emergence of drug resistant strains, it is necessary to develop new antiviral lead compounds continuously. Several sponge derived antiviral lead compounds which are hopedto be developed as future drugs are discussed in this review. Supply problems are usually the major bottleneck to the development of these compounds as drugs during clinical trials. However advances in the field of metagenomics and high throughput microbial cultivation has raised the possibility that these techniques could lead to the cost-effective large scale production of such compounds. Perspectives on biotechnological methods with respect to marine drug development are also discussed. 2010 by the authors; licensee MDPI.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Drug Discovery