Some people say that the age of modern medicine began in 1928 when Penicillin was discovered. A British Scientist by the name of Alexander Fleming went on vacation and forgot to put away a petri dish. When he came back, he realized that the bacteria in the petri dish was being killed by mold. Thus, the era of Penicillin began.
Many of us take medicines derived from microorganisms for granted. Already existing medicines seem like magic bullets. However, pathogens are evolving resistance to dozens of drugs, making it harder to treat infections. Experts believe that, globally, there may be about 10 million deaths brought on by antibiotic resistant infections by the year 2050. Scientists are trying to discover new molecules that can treat antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.
The answer may be in dirt. Sean Brady, an associate professor at Rockefeller University in New York, believes that some microorganisms found in dirt might produce substances that are able to cure antibiotic resistance infections.
There are countless amounts of microorganisms that live in soil. It is worthwhile to study them in order to figure out whether or not we can derive new infection-fighting medicines from them. Already, many drugs come from bacteria A great example is streptomycin, a medicine for the plague and tuberculosis. It is produced by Streptomyces griseus—a bacteria that was found in a farm field in New Jersey.
Brady and his coworkers discovered a new class of antibiotics, called malacidins, after examining a sample of unknown organisms that lived in a random soil sample. They have found that malacidins kill off several super-bugs, including MRSA, without high risks of antibiotic resistance happening.
Bacteria commonly fight each other and have evolved ways to protect themselves against one another. One way that they protect themselves is the production of harsh chemicals that kill off other bacteria. These chemicals are what we harvest as antibiotics.
It’s hard to find new bacteria when some bacteria just don’t grow well in laboratories. As a result, Brady and his coworkers are looking at samples sent in from citizen scientists from across America.
Metagenetics help with the harvest and study of new bacteria because it allows genes to be sequenced en masse. Brady and his coworkers look for genes that produce certain chemicals.
Many new antibiotics are being found, though it can take many years before they are prescribed or given over the counter. There is a lot of testing to be done.