Streptomyces coelicolor, a soil-dwelling bacterium, has one of the best-understood genomes in its genus. Even so, a computational analysis of its genome has led researchers to a surprise: a new antibiotic compound. By tinkering with the bacteria, researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands were able to awaken an inactive gene group that produces large quantities of yellow coelicolor polyketide and a new compound with antimicrobial activity.
The latter compound has proved effective at killing several bacterial strains, including E. coli.
To produce the antibiotic, scientists identify idle genome segments in the bacteria, isolate the repressor gene that keeps those segments dormant, and delete it from the genome—in effect, switching on the potentially antibiotic-producing segment. The team, led by Eriko Takano, hopes to find compounds that are effective against fungi and cancerous human cells, providing further treatment options for immune-compromised and cancer patients.
Since this is a soil bacterium, and resistance is easily transferred between bacterial species in general, how long will it likely be before gut bacteria are resistant to this antibiotic?
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gr33nman, I really hope they accounted for that. I hadn't connected the dots until you mentioned it, but that is a rather terrifying prospect, if we've created a variant of something ubiquitous in nature that kills a bacterium a variant of which is necessary for human life. Without appropriate safeguards, the cure might be a bit worse that the disease, in the most literal sense possible.
To be fair, though, this is a species with strains that are already used to produce other antibiotics, so I imagine they have it under control.