American Elephants

A New Antibiotic is a “Game-Changer” in The Fight Against Antimicrobial Resistance by The Elephant's Child

A report from the United Kingdom government estimated that by 2050, antibiotic resistance would cost the world a projected 10 million lives, and $8 trillion a year.

Projections of the future don’t always turn out to be accurate, but the current state of antibiotics is indeed dire. In the U.S alone, antibiotic -resistant bacteria infect more than two million people  year, killing around 23,000 of them. Bacteria evolve to resist our drugs faster than we can discover new ones. Researchers at Northeastern University have discovered a new antibiotic that may buy us some time.

Antibiotics are discovered in a variety of places. Penicillin came from moldy bread. The first member of the cephalosporin class was discovered in a sewer in Sardinia (and you thought your job was bad). Erythromycin comes from a class of bacteria called actinomyces. Tetracycline was originally isolated from a fungus that grows in soil. Many of today’s drugs were first isolated from a wide variety of natural products, such as plants and marine organisms.

It is something that is derived from soil that is all over the news—a novel new antibiotic called Teixobactin—that was is isolated from soil by a clever new method which has implications far beyond this particular drug. It’s being called a “game-changer” which could open up a whole field of natural products research. About 99 percent of soil microbes are “unculturable”— they could not be grown in laboratories. Resistance to Teixobactin is not believed to develop for at least 30 years. It operates by a different mechanism that seems to make the generation of resistant mutants more difficult.

It’s not perfect, it kills only gram positive bacteria, not the tougher gram negative variety, but it offers a lot of new possibilities, and hope for future discoveries.

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