Officials and experts during a visit to the cave where the ‘mal verde’ can be seen high up on the rock. :: E. C.
Experts from CSIC say that the fungus and bacteria found inside the cave in Rincón de la Victoria could contribute to the development of antibiotics
They say that every cloud has a silver lining and that is definitely the case with a study that has been carried out by specialists at the Centre for Scientific Research (CSIC) at the ‘Cueva del Tesoro’, or Treasure Cave, in Rincón de la Victoria.
The researchers have discovered that the so-called ‘mal verde’, a biodeterioration caused by fungus and bacteria which appears as a greenish stain on the rocks, could result in important advances in the scientific world.
After analysing several of these stains and studying them under the microscope, the team led by Cesáreo Sáiz has come to the conclusion that this cave, which was once underwater and is the only one of its type in Europe that can be visited, is home to new micro-organisms that produce bioactive components of great medical interest, and also pathogens, some of which were previously unknown to science. These could be very useful in the development of antibiotics.
The councillor whose department is responsible for the cave, Marta Marín, said recently that this finding is detailed in the final report by the Institute of Natural Resources and Agrobiology of Seville, which is part of the CSIC, and it proposes that the Cueva del Tesoro should be officially classified as a biological diversity reserve, and that some parts of it should be left with their original biological colonisation.
The provincial government is funding the research project with 47,000 euros.
According to the councillor, the scientists have stressed that this finding is extremely important and they believe that the organisms do not have to be removed in order to preserve the cave paintings. The solution would be to “establish areas of biodiversity away from the art and keeping strict control over the environmental conditions inside thecave and the possible spreading of micro-organisms”.
Marta Marín highlighted some of the aspects of the study, such as the fact that the population of bacteria and archaea associated with the phototrophic communities in the cave is very abundant and varied, as it comprises micro-organisms which could be species that are new to science. “They have found phototrophic communities formed by cyanobacteria, algae, diatoms and mosses,” she explained.
The CSIC study has also provided information about the nature, ecology and methods of elimination and cleaning of the phototrophic colony in the cave. The scientists have made suggestions about the lighting in the part of the cave with the green stains and that it should be cleaned with hydrogen peroxide occasionally as this has proved very effective.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Rincón de la Victoria, Francisco Salado, also stressed the importance of these findings and of the Cueva del Tesoro, which “as well as being one of our main attractions is also an important resource for research,” he said this week.