Scientists discover new class of antibiotics in soil

These antibiotics can target the formation of the bacterial cell membrane or even destroy the cell wall.

Feb 16, 2018 16:32 IST
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Researchers from The Rockefeller University have discovered a new class of antibiotics in soil that is capable of killing off several antibiotic-resistant pathogens. The research was published in the 'Nature Microbiology' journal on February 12, 2018.

How antibiotics work against bacteria?

• The antibiotic compounds are a special class of peptides (special chains of amino acids) which require calcium for antibacterial activity.

• Calcium-dependent antibiotics are capable of targeting bacteria in a variety of ways and this characteristic makes them effective.

• These antibiotics can target the formation of the bacterial cell membrane or even destroy the cell wall.

Method of study

• The new family of antibiotics comes from molecules present in a large variety of soils.

• The team analyzed more than 1000 unique soil samples to better understand how these peptide compounds are produced and how to exploit them for fighting bacteria.

• After collecting soil samples, researchers picked daptomycin antibiotic to serve as a form of guide.

• The team then used DNA information that encodes for production of the antibiotic in daptomycin.

• After analysing the samples, they came across a new family of antibiotics 'Malacidins'.

• This discovery could be a useful weapon in the field of medicines.

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The findings

• The new antibiotic, called Malacidins, was successful in sterilizing methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as the superbug MRSA.

• The bacteria attacked with the malacidins did not develop resistance.

• However, Malacidin class is not a universal cure against all bacteria. The targeting mode is only effective against gram-positive bacteria, species with a very thick cell wall.

• Therefore, this antibiotic treatment would not be effective against gram-negative bacteria such as pneumonia and UTIs.

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