Soil organisms may help create new antibiotics, study reports

Avatar By Joseph Scalise | 2 years ago

Scientists at Rockefeller University have uncovered a completely new family of antibiotics that they hope could one day help destroy resistant bacteria, a recent study published in Nature Microbiology reports.

Currently, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are one of the biggest problems for modern medicine. Not only are they becoming more and more common each year, but they also make it harder to treat certain infections. To combat that, scientists across the world are constantly searching for new and improved antibiotics. This recent study is one such effort.

In the study, the team looked at microorganisms that live in soil because, in order to survive, they have to constantly fight off bacterial infection, reports.

Researchers collected a range of soil samples and then used an antibiotic known as daptomycin as a guide to find other species. That led them to a brand new family of antibiotics, which they named malacidins. The organisms fight off infections with calcium, which disrupts bacterial cell walls. That is a unique process because, unlike other antibacterial agents, the calcium does not cause the walls to leak.

To get a closer look at the method, researchers tested some samples on rats that had MRSA skin infections. The follow up revealed that the new antibiotics completely eliminated the bacteria. Additional lab tests also suggested it is unlikely bacteria could easily adapt to the new family.

That combination shows a lot of promise, but much more testing is needed before scientists can conduct any clinical trials. Even so, researchers are incredibly optimistic. They hope to find more members of the family in order to one day bring about an entire new class of better, more efficient drugs.

“Big pharma are looking for blockbuster drugs they can recoup their money on, quickly,” explained Luke Alderwick, a researcher Birmingham University who was not involved in the study, according to The Independent. “With [new] antibiotics, because we want to stop fueling resistance, we want to keep these to one side – as a last resort.”