A Potentially Powerful New Antibiotic Is Discovered in Dirt

Handfuls of soil

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

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

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. In vitro experiments indicated that malacidins were able to kill gram-positive bacteria in the presence of calcium, and in tests on rats that had methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) skin infections, topical administration of the molecules resulted in sterilization of the wound, with no significant signs of toxicity. The clearing up of the infection was noted within a day of use. The team's research has been published in Nature Microbiology.

The researchers named the new antibiotic Malacidin as a short form of metagenomic acidic lipopeptide antibiotic-cidins. Another antibiotic daptomycin kills bactarial cells walls by breaking them down. While it was taken from daptomycin, is appears to work differently.

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The team of researchers used Malacidin against MRS for consecutive 20 days to see if the bacteria could mutate and develop any resistance to the antibiotic. This ability to switch on and off, Brady explained, means they may be able to avoid constantly being exposed to the development of resistance.

Experts have hailed this new antibiotic from soil the next big thing because, a new antibiotic has not been discovered since 1987.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year, at least 2 million people in the United States become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. Many more individuals die each year due to the complications caused by drug resistant bacteria. "With [new] antibiotics, because we want to stop fuelling resistance, we want to keep these to one side - as a last resort".

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Dominant antibiotic fighting against bacterial strains discovered in soil by the researchers from Rockefeller University at the laboratory at Upper East Side of NY. 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. They had speculated that this novel use of calcium was the key to the longevity of these antibiotics.

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. When they noticed a number of samples contained malacidins, they chose to dig a bit deeper into the compounds. When they found what they were after, they cloned the genes, rearranged them and implanted them in a host organism, using fermentation to expand the sample. This process made it possible to test the unique properties of malacidin on MRSA-infected rats. The result could be new discoveries, and a new way of sifting the soil for compounds that might make good medicine.

For now, he and his colleagues are trying to find the best variants of malacidins, by synthesizing them in the lab or finding analogs in nature.

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