New antibiotics found from soil a breakthrough against drug resistance

The discovery of new class of antibiotics has ended 25 years of wait

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Thursday 08 January 2015

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Though still in its infancy, a discovery recently made in the domain of medicine, is being seen as a breakthrough for the medical fraternity.

Scientists have found new antibiotics that will be able to kill an array of germs that have become resistant to existing drugs. Not only this, the new method of growing bacteria has potential to yield more antibiotics in future. This was declared in a study that was published in journal Nature on Wednesday. Despite the world inching closer and closer to a post-antibiotic era, the last worthy discovery in the domain was made long back in 1987.

Titled, ‘A new antibiotic kills pathogen without detectable resistance’ the study claims that experts believe it may prove to be a game changer. The much needed discovery, however, has not been tested on humans yet. But the method was found to be effective on mice.

A cure hidden in dirt

The new class of antibiotic, uncovered by screening 10,000 bacterial strains from the soil, has been called teixobactin. The antibiotic will be investigated further in animals before being tested on humans. Kim Lewis, the lead author of the research and a professor at Northeastern University in Boston said, “If all goes well, we will be in clinical trials two to three years from now to prove its efficacy.”

The research has appeared when the whole world community is under-stress to deal with drug resistance because of widespread and increasingly indiscriminate use of existing antibiotics. Due to this unregulated use, bacteria in recent years have acquired mutations and new genes that render them more resistant to drugs.

Promising ‘un-cultured’ bacteria

The problem was getting compound because scientists were unable to find new antibiotics. One of the main barriers in the way of this innovation was inability to tap the vast storehouse of “un-cultured” bacteria. The research paper says that approximately 99 per cent of all species in external environments do not grow under laboratory conditions means they are un-cultured, but they are quite promising source of new antibiotics.

These scientists developed several methods to grow “un-cultured” organisms by cultivation in their natural environment and for this, they created a "subterranean hotel" for bacteria. One bacterium was placed in each "room" and the whole device was buried in soil. It allowed the unique chemistry of soil to permeate the room, but kept the bacteria in place for study.

It is known to all that innovation of antibiotics in the early 20th century had transformed medicine and also the public health.

A new antibiotic kills pathogens without detectable resistance

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