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Metagenomics in the hunt for new antibiotics

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A report in the Journal of the American Chemical Society describes a new technology for sifting through the world’s largest remaining pool of potential antibiotics, in which two new agents against meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections have been discovered.

Discovering new antibiotics usually involves identifying and growing previously unknown bacteria from soil and other environmental samples in the laboratory. The bacteria are then analysed to see if they produce antibacterials that could be used as antibiotics in medicine. But most bacteria found in such samples will not grow in vitro.

Taking a new approach, described as metagenomics, the researchers removed DNA from soil bacteria that failed to grow in the lab and incubated this DNA in bacteria that do grow well in vitro. The soil bacteria’s DNA was found to produce new substances, including two new possible antibiotics, fasamycin A and fasamycin B, capable of killing MRSA and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis, which is also becoming resistant to known antibiotics.

The researchers suggest that large numbers of previously inaccessible natural antibiotics may become available using metagenomics.

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From: Beyond pharmacy blog

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