A Tool for Fighting Superbugs Has Been Found Deep in the Desert

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And there are certainly many more bacteria that could give us new useful antibiotics to use. But if you find what looks promising, the next step is to persuade him to generate enough antibiotics to analyze them, and that can be a real challenge.

The discovery of antibiotics “is often hampered by low performance,” says Laura Piddock, scientific director of the Global Antibiotic R&D Partnership (GARDP) in Geneva. In addition, sometimes a bacterium will have the potential to produce useful substances, but “the genetic machinery is turned off, so no antibiotics are made,” Piddock adds.

Knowing this, Dyson and his collaborators decided to take the tRNA gene from the fast-growing desert bacterium and add it to the Streptomyces bacteria already used to make clinical antibiotics. The team’s hypothesis was that the fast-growing bacterium gene would increase the production of antibiotics from these other bacteria, which is exactly what happened. Modified bacteria produced antibiotic compounds in two to three days, about half the time it usually takes conventionally. Streptomyces spices.

These findings, published in the journal Nucleic acid research, could be very useful in the search for new treatments. If scientists find a new bacterium that seems to generate something that could be used as medicine, but doesn’t produce much of it (as often happens), there’s a tool to make it much more productive. “I firmly believe this is a very simple strategy to integrate into any new antibiotic discovery program,” Dyson says.

Piddock agrees. Getting the bacteria to produce higher volumes of antibiotic substances “will be of great interest to researchers in this field” and will have a positive impact on human health, he says. “This should allow them to discover new antibiotics that could form the basis of new drugs to treat infections.”

This is good news, as right now the World Bank estimates that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development. According to an alarming UN report in 2019, if no measures are taken to combat these widespread superbugs, 10 million people a year could die from drug-resistant diseases by 2050. As a result, the increase in the use of antibiotics during the pandemic (to protect Covid-19). patients with secondary infections) has seen increased drug resistance.

Resistance occurs when bacteria are repeatedly exposed to antibiotics and ways to withstand them evolve. The phenomenon is exacerbated and accelerated by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in both humans and livestock, including when humans take antibiotics for viral diseases (they only work against bacteria) and when otherwise they are given healthy livestock for disease prevention.

“It is impossible at any time to completely stop RAM as it is a natural phenomenon, but the rate and threat can be mitigated and controlled,” says Hatim Sati, of the World Health Organization’s Antimicrobial Resistance Division. .

The Dyson Desert bacterium is a species that could help, but there are many others adapted to extreme environments that could also offer a way out. Called extremophiles, these organisms have been isolated from some of the most inhospitable places on Earth: underwater volcanoes, deep-water sponges, and in the middle of the sands of the driest place on earth. These habitats have intensely high or low temperatures, pH, pressure or salinity, or combinations of all of these.

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