New Antibiotic in Dirt Can Kill Drug Resistant Bacteria

Photo+Courtesy+of+www.nbcnews.com

Photo Courtesy of www.nbcnews.com

Antibiotics are trusted weapons against many types of bacterial disease, but growing resistance to the drugs is a major problem, reported.smithsonianmag.com. “Pathogens are acquiring resistance faster than we can introduce new antibiotics, and this is causing a human health crisis,” says biochemist Kim Lewis of Northeastern University.

Along with his colleagues and the help of a biotech start-up called NovaBiotic Pharmaceuticals, Northeastern University professor Kim Lewis tapped into a largely unexplored treasure trove of new antimicrobials (the dirt), reported washingtonpost.com.

“The majority of bacteria on this planet are ‘uncultured,’ meaning they don’t grow on our petri dishes,” Lewis said, according to npr.org. “And when I’m talking about the ‘majority,’ it is 99 percent. The experimental antibiotic, called teixobactin, is being touted as a “game changer” and is very good news considering the number of infections which have evolved to become resistant to existing antibiotics, claims newsweek.com. The antibiotic, teixobactin, is effective against deadly pathogens like tuberculosis and MRSA, stated wcsh6.com.

Soil chemistry varies from place-to-place, indeed, from micro-habitat to micro-habitat. Bacteria and fungi living within these habitats vary because of the varying conditions, according to www.quirkyscience.com. Since the new strains of both are always being discovered, and these forms or life are the source of many, many antibiotics, samples of soil are continuing to be studied for potential new drugs.

Drug-resistant bacteria infect at least two million people a year in the United States and kill 23,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization warned last year that such infections were occurring all over the world, and that drug resistant strains of many diseases were emerging faster than new antibiotics could be made to fight them.

Compounding the problem is the fact that many drug companies backed away from trying to develop new antibiotics in favor of other, more profitable, types of drugs, claims www.nytimes.com.