Most antibiotics in clinical use were discovered by screening cultivable soil microorganisms, a much depleted resource that has not been adequately replaced by synthetic approaches. Hence the widespread alarm at the spread of antibiotic resistance. This paper presents some welcome good news, in the form of the isolation and characterization of a new antibiotic active against a range of bacterial pathogens including Staphylococcus aureus, and apparently untroubled by the evolution of resistance. Kim Lewis and colleagues use a recently developed system for in situ cultivation of previously uncultured soil bacteria and identify a β-proteobacterium, Eleftheria terrae sp. that produces a depsipeptide they call teixobactin. Teixobactin is active in vivo and separately targets precursors in the biosynthetic pathways for each of two major components of the bacterial cell wall, peptidoglycan and teichoic acid. Screens for mutants resistant teixobactin were negative, perhaps a consequence of this novel two-target mechanism.
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