Through billions of years of evolution microbes have evolved to produce a variety of antibiotics to battle their fellow bugs. And in the past, studying chemicals excreted by microbes has been a fruitful path to discovering new antibiotics. But astonishingly, microbiologists only work with about 1 percent of the microbial species found in the wild; the other 99 percent are finicky and refuse to grow in the lab. That’s part of the reason researchers haven’t discovered a new class of antibiotics in almost 30 years. In this latest study, the scientists found a clever workaround. They collected soil samples and used a device called an iChip to isolate single strains of bacteria. Then, rather than raising them in the lab, researchers put the bacteria back in the ground to replicate. They screened more than 10,000 of these isolated bacteria samples to see how they performed in battling Staphylococcus aureus. And the runaway winner — a bacteria named Eleftheria terrae — was found to use teixobactin as its secret weapon. Molecular Triple Threat Teixobactin wages an attack against the cell walls of targeted bacteria to kill them. It’s the same method of extermination used by another antibiotic called vancomycin, which was discovered in 1953. Vancomycin was an old stand-by, but bacteria resistant to vancomycin eventually emerged about 40 years after its discovery. However, the specific way teixobactin attacks its enemies’ cell walls led researchers to believe it’s unlikely that bacteria will develop resistance to teixobactin in 40 years — if at all. More via D-brief.
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