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Lab Reports
March 3, 2015

Soil Screening Research Uncovers Promising New Antibiotic

JAMA. 2015;313(9):885. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.1187

Methods that extract drugs from soil bacteria have yielded a new antibiotic without detectable resistance (Ling LL et al. Nature. 2015;517[535]:455-459). According to an international group of researchers, 99% of bacterial species in external environments do not grow under laboratory conditions, but the team could successfully grow the organisms in their natural soil environment using a growth factor–infused microfluidic device called iChip.

The researchers isolated, grew, and prepared extracts from 10 000 soil bacterial strains and examined the ability of these extracts to inhibit the growth of Staphylococcus aureus. One of the bacterial extracts that looked especially promising was derived from a gram-negative β-proteobacterium. When the purified antibiotic, which the researchers named teixobactin, was administered to mice with severe drug-resistant infections, all of the mice survived without any adverse effects. Teixobactin acts as an antibiotic by binding to 2 precursors of bacterial cell wall polymers, thereby inhibiting cell wall synthesis.

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