New antibiotic found in the dirt

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A whole new class of antibiotics, with the potential to treat superbugs, has been isolated from bacteria that live in soil. US researchers looked at the DNA from over 1,000 soil samples to find the new drug, which fights bacteria differently to most other drugs. The new antibiotic was able to kill drug resistant skin infections in animals, say the researchers.

Journal/conference: Nature Microbiology

Organisation/s: The Rockefeller University, USA

Funder: This work was supported in part by a grant from the Gates Foundation and NIH U19AI109713

Media Release

From: Springer Nature

New antibiotic from soil microorganisms

The discovery of a new antibiotic class from soil bacteria is reported online this week in Nature Microbiology. This class, called malacidins, kills several multidrug-resistant, disease-causing bacteria — including the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) skin infection in rats.

New antibiotics are needed to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections. As most licensed antibiotics were originally extracted from microorganisms, interest has focused on looking for new drugs in diverse environmental samples.

Sean Brady and colleagues sequenced bacterial DNA extracted from over a thousand soil samples taken from across the United States, and discovered a set of genes that produce malacidins, a new family of antibiotics. Malacidins fight bacteria differently to most other drugs, by attacking a key part of the bacterial cell wall — a mechanism to which microorganisms did not develop resistance in the laboratory. The authors also used a high-throughput sequencing-based screening method that bypasses the need to grow microorganisms first (as the vast majority of bacterial species cannt be cultured in the lab) and thus can be used to quickly mine new drug candidates from diverse environmental sources.

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