Published: Wed, February 14, 2018
Health | By Jay Jacobs

Antibiotics family discovered in soil could be the answer to antibiotic resistance

Antibiotics family discovered in soil could be the answer to antibiotic resistance

Dr Alderwick, who is director of the Birmingham Drug Discovery Facility as well as a lecturer at Birmingham University, said work by university teams, like the Rockefeller group and his own team, will play a larger role in future antibiotic discovery because pharmaceutical companies have struggled to make money in this area.

A newly discovered family of dirt-dwelling antibiotics could be our best weapon against treatment-resistant "superbugs".

Experiments suggest the antibiotic family, known as malacidins, can kill several "superbugs", including the notoriously difficult-to-treat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This led to them finding an entire gene cluster associated with the gene variant of interest that encoded for a new calcium-dependent antibiotic peptide family.

The scientists analysed more than a thousand soil samples taken from across the US.

"We're taking DNA directly out of soil samples", Brady said.

Malacidin's mode of action also means resistance is less likely to develop, as it works by tying up the supply of a bacterium's cell wall building blocks rather than targeting a key enzyme that could mutate.

'At 24 and 72-hours post infection, malacidin treatment resulted in no observed bacterial burdens in the wounds.

Bacteria can become drug resistant when people take incorrect doses of antibiotics, or they are given out unnecessarily. The team's research has been published in Nature Microbiology.

Brady and his colleagues were interested in calcium-dependent antibiotics because they appear to switch on in the presence of calcium and off without it. By narrowing their search for the DNA signature of calcium dependence, they were able to find a needle in a haystack - and find a promising compound.

The researchers from Rockefeller University in NY used a gene sequencing technique to analyse more than 1,000 soil samples, the BBC reported on Tuesday.

When the team sequenced this gene cluster, they found that it was evolutionarily similar to calcium-dependent antibiotic gene clusters, but different enough that it had not been previously identified. 'This might be a way of reducing resistance'.

Malacidins were present in numerous samples, suggesting it could be an important find. "It is a long, arduous road from the initial discovery of an antibiotic to a clinically used entity". "We'll see where it goes from here", he said.

Ever since the mid-1940s, after penicillin was discovered by microbiologist Alexander Fleming and rushed into development, the introduction of new antibiotics has quickly given rise to disease-causing bacteria capable of eluding their effects.

But what Brady is really excited about is scaling the platform so that the researchers can systematically discover new antibiotics in the environment.

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