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Antibiotic gene mining hope


The so-called genome mining of bacteria may unearth a “treasure trove” of new therapeutic drugs, scientists say.

A team at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, led by Eriko Tanako, recently found and activated dormant genes within the microbe of soil bug streptomyces, from which they created an antibiotic compound found to be effective against many bacterial strains, such as Escherichia coli (E coli).

Bright yellow pigment was also produced by the same genes from the streptomyces.

The growing problem of bacteria being resistant to drugs could be solved by the genome mining process, the scientists insisted.

Dr Takano said: “The strategy is a powerful and innovative way of searching for new antibiotic production capabilities in bacteria. As bacterial infections previously considered as mild and easily curable are suddenly becoming lethal and completely unresponsive to all existing medication, it is crucial that new antibiotics are discovered at a sufficiently rapid rate.”

The study findings were published in August’s issue of the Microbiology journal. In 2002, the researchers found a group of genes in a particular species of Streptomyces but did not know what they were for. They eventually discovered and removed a molecule which deactivated one of the gene groups. The genes then started making the new antibiotic.

The new compounds may also lead to treatments for cancer patients.

Dr Takano said: “There are several thousand other uncharacterised groups of genes that have been found recently in microbial genome sequences. This opens up a rich treasure trove of new potential drugs for clinical use.”

Copyright © Press Association 2010


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