Research highlight

Drug discovery: A potential new antibiotic identified

Nature Communications

September 5, 2018

A fungal compound called albomycin δ2 is identified as a promising antibiotic candidate in a paper in Nature Communications this week. The study presents an approach, which has made it possible to efficiently obtain the compound in the laboratory, and subsequently tests its activity against various bacteria in cell culture.

Typically, antibiotics are natural substances with chemically sophisticated structures, however, this makes it hard to reproduce them synthetically (that is, in the laboratory from scratch). Bacteria can become resistant to a given antibiotic, which results in a constant search for novel antibacterial compounds.

Yun He and colleagues report a technique to synthesize albomycins, a group of fungal compounds that have previously shown antimicrobial properties. The authors were able to obtain the substances in large enough amounts to allow them to test their antibiotic activity. One substance, albomycin δ2, performed well in a test against a variety of bacterial strains, in cultured cells, isolated from patients, including strains of Escherichia coli, Streptococcus pneumonia and Staphylococcus aureus. Notably, albomycin δ2 outperformed several established antibiotics (including penicillin) in a test against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) isolates.

Further tests are needed to see whether albomycin δ2 is safe and effective to use as a drug against bacterial infections.

doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-05821-1

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