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

Faith Castro
February 17, 2018

They had speculated that this novel use of calcium was the key to the longevity of these antibiotics.

In a study published yesterday in Nature Microbiology, Brady and his colleagues report on the discovery of a class of antibiotics that he says are one of the best examples to come from this platform. This novel antibiotic, called malacidin, is hailed as the next big thing because of its ability to work against numerous multidrug-resistant bacterial strains. Malacidin is a distant chemical relative of daptomycin but works differently.

The antibiotics' unique approach to killing pathogens targets bacteria's cell walls, which did not cause drug resistance in the laboratory, a United States study found.

Experts have hailed this new antibiotic from soil the next big thing because, a new antibiotic has not been discovered since 1987.

The result has been called a "slow catastrophe": the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that each year, at least 23,000 people now die as a direct result of bacterial infections that have become resistant to existing medicines. The search for new antibiotics is of importance to human health, given that infectious diseases remain a leading cause of death worldwide. This antibiotic Malacidin, further scores over others because of its ability to prevent development of resistance by the microbes. Furthermore, in the absence of new therapies, mortality rates due to untreatable infections are predicted to rise. Brady called this new antibiotic "promising" and with good reason.

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As researchers around the world scramble to cultivate new molecules that can destroy disease-causing microorganisms, scientists from The Rockefeller University in NY have reported the discovery of a new class of antibiotics called malacidins, which are produced by microorganisms that live in soil and dirt. They were looking for antibiotics similar to daptomycin that uses calcium to break the bacterial cell walls.

Scientists said they used a high-throughput sequencing-based screening method that bypasses the need to grow microorganisms first because the vast majority of bacterial species cannot be cultured in the laboratory, and thus can be used to "quickly mine new drug candidates from diverse environmental sources". They focused specifically on a clade of genes that are found in 1 of every 10 samples.

Brady says there are at least 10,000 bacteria under each footprint of soil, majority still unidentified.

"So you have a molecule that will sterilize MDR [multidrug-resistant] Staph, with no resistance developed in the wound...and we don't see toxicity in the animal", Brady said.

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