Scientists Discover New Class of Antibiotic to Fight Drug-Resistant Superbugs

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

In a report published this week in the journal Nature Microbiology, researchers describe a never-before-seen antibiotic agent that vanquished several strains of multidrug-resistant bacteria.

Malacidin represents the metagenomic acidic lipopeptide antibiotic-cidins, in which "mal" means "bad" in Latin and "cide" means "kill". While it was taken from daptomycin, is appears to work differently.

Scientists from Rockefeller University in the United States have found a new family of antibiotics in the soil, which may provide a new means to combat drug-resistant bugs like MRSA.

Bob Hancock, a microbiologist at the University of British Colombia in Canada, says the method the team used to produce the antibiotics is "really blue-printable" and could be used to make a lot of new antimicrobial compounds.

"Researchers in the USA have discovered a new family of antibiotics in the soil".

12 scientists discovered malacidins, compounds which, based on tests, kill multiple bacterial diseases now resistant to most of our existing antibiotics. But a recent discovery offers new hope. That's where numerous most widely used antibiotics in medicine come from. Prior to that there had been a 30-year drought, prompting dire warnings of a "post-antibiotic apocalypse" if bacteria continue to adapt to withstand essential drugs.

'In the absence of new therapies, mortality rates due to untreatable infections are predicted to rise more than tenfold by 2050'.

This is where malacidin becomes most interesting.

The team of researchers led by Sean F. Brady, a chemist and associate professor, and his colleagues at Rockefeller University in NY looked at the bacterial DNA from 2,000 soil samples that were taken from different parts of United States.

Brady is quick to note that research into malacidins is in its very early stages, and development of the molecules into an antibiotic with clinical applications is a long way off. Even after 20 days of continued contact with malacidin, which is more than enough time for most bacteria to find a way to resist an antibiotic's powers, the MRSA bacteria in the rats showed no signs of evolving resistance. The team next cloned the relevant genes and rearranged them to insert into a host organism Streptomyces.

Malacidin was able to successfully attack and break down the cell walls of the harmful bacteria, clearing up the rats' skin infections in just a day.

Dr. Sean Brady, who leads the team, says it will be a long and hard process to transform this discovery into antibiotics pills to be offered in clinics and pharmacies, but it shows the important potential waiting to be discovered in nature. They hypothesized that the genes responsible for this "calcium-dependent motif" might be found in other compounds.



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