The Marine Environment as a Veritable Source of Pharmaceuticals and Bioactive compounds

  • S O Olagbende – Dada
  • A Adesegun
  • H A Coker


Natural products have served as a major source of drugs for centuries and about half of the pharmaceuticals in use today are derived from natural products. Continuous research into natural environments for pharmaceutical leads is an on- going process. A.M. Clerk attributed the strong interest in natural product research to the following:s *unmet therapeutic needs; * the wide diversity of both chemical structures and biological activities of natural occurring compounds; * the use of bioactive natural products as biochemical and molecular probes; *the development of new and sensitive techniques to detect biologically active natural products and; *the improved techniques to isolate, purify and structurally characterize these active constituents Natural products are the most consistently successful source of drug leads. They serve as a steady provider of structural diversity, which offer major opportunities for finding novel lead structures that are active against a wide range of assay targets. Presently less than 10% of the world's biodiversity has been tested for biological activity, many more useful lead compounds are awaiting discovery. The terrestrial environment has proved a veritable source of important drugs that have successfully played essential roles in primary health care in 80% of the worlds population. For example lignocaine, a local anaesthetic agent, and procainamide, an antiarrhythmic agent have their antecedent in cocaine an alkaloid obtained from Erythroxylun coca leaves. Vinblastine, vincristine, irinotecan, topotecan etoposide and paclitaxel (taxol) are cytotoxic agents derived from plants. These drugs have been successfully employed in medicine for the treatment of certain cancers. Atracurium, a long acting biodegradable neuromuscular blocking agent is employed in major surgery, and is a derivative of tubucurarine, an alkaloid from the curare leaves. Quinine and artemisinine are some of the most effective antimalarial drugs available in tropical medicine, and they are direct isolates of plant materials. Of recent, mankind had found that the marine environment has also proved a fertile sources of very active natural products of medicinal importance.

NQJHM Vol. 14 (1) 2004: pp. 70-80

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0189-2657