Bacteria Hidden Under Our Feet May Be a New Weapon Against Superbugs

Handfuls of soil

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

A new family of antibiotics discovered in soil has raised hopes of solving the increasing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and superbugs, a study recently made public by USA scientists explains.

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

Professor Brady added: 'Despite the wide availability of antibiotics, infectious diseases remain a leading cause of death worldwide. They used PCR primers that latch onto a common biosynthetic gene to identify variants of this gene within soils. This new antibiotic that is resistant to antibiotic resistance may be the key.

'The [antibiotics] only gain their 3D shape in the presence of calcium and this allows them to then bind their target. "Our idea is, there's this reservoir of antibiotics out in the environment we haven't accessed yet". In addition, Brady and his colleagues were unable to induce resistance to the malacidins. 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. It is a distant relative of daptomycin, a powerful antibiotic that uses calcium to disrupt bacterial cell walls.

When they implanted the gene cluster into Streptomyces bacteria, the cells produced two new antibiotics, which were found to be active against Gram-positive bacteria, including multidrug-resistant pathogens.

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Study author Professor Sean Brady from The Rockefeller University in NY, said: 'Topical administration was successful in sterilising MRSA-infected wounds in a rat model.

'We think the different mode of action is really exciting. And scientists have long believed that soil microbes could harbor many more, since they've had to develop mechanisms to compete with their neighbors for space and resources. Ten per cent of soils had a DNA sequence that looked like it was related to this group. 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.

Called malacidins, the new class is capable of killing many types of superbugs, including Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), often spread in hospitals and places where infection can spread easily.

With a view to developing the compounds into a real treatment for people, the researchers are now working to improve the drug's effectiveness.

Research revealed in the journal Nature Microbiology describes about an antibiotic agent that it has never ever been previously observed and comprises an ability of vanquishing major strains of bacteria thoroughly that resist multiple drugs.

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