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Researchers Find New Chemical Key That Could Unlock Hundreds Of New Antibiotics

Posted Nov 02 2008 2:52pm

Chemistry researchers at The University of Warwick and the John Innes Centre, have found a novel signalling molecule that could be a key that will open up hundreds of new antibiotics unlocking them from the DNA of the Streptomyces family of bacteria.

With bacterial resistance growing researchers are keen to uncover as many new antibiotics as possible. Some of the Streptomyces bacteria are already used industrially to produce current antibiotics and researchers have developed approaches to find and exploit new pathways for antibiotic production in the genome of the Streptomyces family. For many years it was thought that the relatively unstable butyrolactone compounds represented by “A-factor” were the only real signal for stimulating such pathways of possible antibiotic production but the Warwick and John Innes teams have now found a much more stable group of compounds that may have the potential to produce at least one new antibiotic compound from up to 50% of the 1000 or so known Streptomyces family of bacteria.

Colonies of bacteria such as Streptomyces naturally make antibiotics as a defence mechanism when those colonies are under stress and thus more susceptible to attack from other bacteria. The colonies need to produce a compound to spread a signal across the colony to start producing their natural antibiotic weapons.

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