Scientists Discover "Game-Changing" Antibiotic in a Pile of Dirt

This article originally appeared here.

the MPR take:

Many antibiotics were initially discovered in soil bacteria, but because most soil bacteria cannot be cultivated in a lab there have been few new classes of antibiotics since the 1960s. Using a two-inch-long microfluidic chip, researchers were able to capture microbes from dirt; the chip was then placed in a container of dirt so the bacteria could thrive. Colonies of bacteria were collected and analyzed for potential production of antibiotics and, thus, teixobactin was discovered.

New Antibiotic Found in Dirt
New Antibiotic Found in Dirt

(HealthDay News) — The new antibiotic, teixobactin, has proven effective against a number of bacterial infections that have developed resistance to existing antibiotic drugs, researchers report online January 7 in Nature.

Researchers have used teixobactin to cure lab mice of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. The new antibiotic also worked against Streptococcus pneumoniae. Cell culture tests also showed that the new drug effectively eliminated drug-resistant strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Bacillus anthracis, and Clostridium difficile.

Teixobactin kills pathogens by causing their cell walls to break down, similar to vancomycin, the researchers said. It also appears to attack many other growth processes at the same time, giving the researchers hope that bacteria will be unable to quickly develop resistance to the antibiotic.

"My estimate is that we will probably be in clinical trials three years from now," senior author Kim Lewis, PhD, director of the Antimicrobial Discovery Center at Northeastern University in Boston, told HealthDay. Lewis said researchers are working to refine the new antibiotic and make it more effective for use in humans.

Several authors are employed by NovoBiotic Pharmaceuticals, which is currently developing teixobactin.

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