Scientists discover new antibiotic family in soil

For the first time in 30 years a new type of antibiotic has been unearthed buried in dirt

For the first time in 30 years a new type of antibiotic has been unearthed buried in dirt

Tests show the compounds, called malacidins, annihilate several bacterial diseases that have become resistant to most existing antibiotics, including the superbug MRSA.

The researchers named the new antibiotic Malacidin as a short form of metagenomic acidic lipopeptide antibiotic-cidins. The researchers were looking for relatives of daptomycin, which employs calcium to break down the cell walls of its target bacteria, The Los Angeles Times reports. While it was taken from daptomycin, is appears to work differently.

Scientists trawling through thousands of soil samples have discovered a whole new class of antibiotics capable of killing drug-resistant bacteria.

Not bad for a compound that's been hiding in soil for eons.

But what Brady is really excited about is scaling the platform so that the researchers can systematically discover new antibiotics in the environment.

But an even more singular event would be the discovery of a new class of antibiotics that doesn't prompt the development of resistant strains of bacteria.

As a result, numerous workhorses of the world of antibiotics - members of the penicillin, cephalosporin and carbapenem classes - are losing their ability to fight a lengthening list of bacterial diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that this development of resistance is a "slow catastrophe" with over 23,000 deaths each year due to bacterial infections that are resistant to the antibiotics available for use.

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Experts have previously warned antibiotic resistance poses "as big a risk as terrorism" and could revert modern society back to 19th century conditions where a simple infection or operation may be life-threatening.

Today, a seemingly impending 'antibiotic apocalypse' is on the horizon when even the most common infections are becoming untreatable, yet only two new antibiotic candidates have been identified in the past 70 years.

This is where malacidin becomes most interesting. Scientists from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School contributed. The result could be new discoveries, and a new way of sifting the soil for compounds that might make good medicine.

But in a paper published to Nature Microbiology, Rockafeller University in NY researcher Sean Brady reported the discovery of a whole new class of antibiotic obtained from an unknown microorganism found in common soil.

Penicillin, the first and most famous antibiotic, was discovered by the Scottish microbiologist Alexander Fleming in 1928 and also came from soil bacteria.

In order to hasten the process of culturing soil bacteria in a lab, the researchers used high-speed computer processing to "screen" their soil sampled for this calcium use. They focused specifically on a clade of genes that are found in 1 of every 10 samples. Then they insert these genes into easily cultured bacteria to see if they can get those molecules to grow and test their hypotheses. They hypothesized that the genes responsible for this "calcium-dependent motif" might be found in other compounds.

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