Scientists discover new antibiotic family in soil

  • Scientists discover new antibiotic family in soil

Scientists discover new antibiotic family in soil

To test how these antibiotics work, they tested samples on rats with induced MRSA skin infections, reporting that the new antibiotics successfully defeated the dreaded MRSA.

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. To expedite the process of obtaining the antibiotic they used high-speed computer processing to sift through the soil samples.

They also knew that trying to culture all their soil samples in a lab would take forever, and that most would not replicate themselves under lab conditions anyway. Brady and his coworkers look for genes that produce certain chemicals.

Scrutinizing soil samples, U.S. researchers have discovered a new class of antibiotics capable of killing drug-resistant, disease-causing bacteria. The team's research has been published in Nature Microbiology.

This brand-new antibiotic class, called malacidins (short for metagenomic acidic lipopeptide antibiotic-cidins) has been isolated from bacteria that live in soil.

According to The Washington Post, the breakthrough was made by a process of cloning significant quantities of DNA from hundreds of soil samples obtained from across the USA, sent in by a team of eager citizens scientists.

This particular type of calcium-dependent gene is popular among microbiologists because it is believed it could be a great indicator for a much longer sequence controlling the production of antibiotics. The team next cloned the relevant genes and rearranged them to insert into a host organism Streptomyces. In addition, Brady and his colleagues were unable to induce resistance to the malacidins. When they noticed a number of samples contained malacidins, they made a decision to dig a bit deeper into the compounds.

"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.

Speaking with BBC Science about the discovery, lead researcher Dr Sean Brady said: "It is impossible to say when, or even if, an early stage antibiotic discovery like the malacidins will proceed to the clinic".

'We think the different mode of action is really exciting. The result could be new discoveries, and a new way of sifting the soil for compounds that might make good medicine.