BTA News

Bulgarian Researchers Investigate Potential Use of Antarctic Yeasts for Cancer Treatment

Microbiologist and biotechnologist Dr. Snezhana Rusinova of the Laboratory of Applied Biotechnologies at the Stephan Angeloff Institute of Microbiology with the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences is working on a project studying yeast samples collected from Antarctica. She took part in the 31st Bulgarian expedition to Livingston Island with the naval research vessel Sv. Sv. Kiril i Metodii (RSV 421), and since her return in March, she has continued her work on Antarctic yeasts.

“The aim of the project is to look for biologically active substances from Antarctic yeasts and investigate their potential for cancer treatment. We were lucky to be able to get enough samples. We now have a publication that summarises the data from one of the studies. We managed to find an interesting representative of these Antarctic yeasts that synthesizes a complex of molecules in its extract and is cytotoxic to bladder cancer,” the scientist explained.

Yeasts are eukaryotic microorganisms larger than bacteria. They are part of the fungi kingdom, but because they are unicellular, they are classified as microorganisms, Rusinova said. It is an important fact that Antarctic yeasts are not pathogens, i.e. they can be easily handled in both laboratory and industrial settings. In addition, they can maintain a sterile culture throughout the fermentation process, according to the researcher.

What yeasts tell us

Antarctic yeasts have a metabolism that has adapted them to the conditions there. Scientists are seeking to discover how the yeast manages to protect its molecules from extremely low temperatures. Perhaps they synthesize substances unknown so far, comments the microbiologist.

“Antarctic microorganisms, which I have been studying for 15 years, are very interesting from a biotechnological point of view. We have been working on their different possibilities to synthesize metabolic compounds that are beneficial to humans. It was important for me to personally go and get the samples, to get them as sterile as possible,” Rusinova explained.

According to her, not all samples have been studied so far. Sampling has been done from the soil, from the water of the glacial lakes, and even from the feathers of the penguins on Livingston Island.

Antarctica and its secrets

“There is more to search for. There are probably many more diverse yeasts, and we may discover new ones that hold cures for various diseases. Microbiology is a very slow science. In the process, we have long days where we wait to see if there are any yeasts in the samples at all. It takes a minimum of twenty days to establish this,” the microbiologist added.

According to Rusinova, Antarctica hides secrets that will continue to excite scientists. She also said that her trip to Livingston Island has left a lasting impression on her and has inspired her to continue her scientific work.


During the 32nd Bulgarian expedition to Antarctica, which started on November 8, 2023, the Bulgarian News Agency (BTA) is publishing interviews with Antarctic researchers. The Bulgaria-Antarctica BTA’s Log again provides coverage of the voyage of the Sv. Sv. Kiril i Metodii to Antarctica and back and its stay there, as it did during the 31st expedition between December 27, 2022 and May 2, 2023. Back then, only BTA had a correspondent, Daily News Editor Konstantin Karagyozov, who covered the 127-day expedition with text, video and photos during the entire voyage (including across the Atlantic in both directions) and throughout the stay in Antarctica. In June 2023, BTA published in Bulgarian and in English an issue of its LIK magazine “To Antarctica and Back under the Bulgarian Flag” dedicated to the historic expedition.

Again, all of BTA’s information on the Bulgarian scientific research in Antarctica and the support provided by the Bulgarian naval research vessel, as well as on the other activities at the Bulgarian Antarctic Base, will be available to all media outlets in Bulgarian and in English on BTA’s website in the Bulgaria – Antarctica: BTA’s Log section.

BTA has a National Press Club on board the ship and is planning to open a National Press Club at the Bulgarian Antarctic Base on Livingston Island.