Just when parents are busy keeping toddlers out of the dirt, scientists find a previously unknown soil bacteria that makes a powerful Gram-positive bacteria-targeting antibiotic. It turns out that it kills bad players like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Wahoo! Staph was definitely getting out of hand so this is good news!
The new bacterium, called teixobactin, lives in the soil and can't be grown in the lab using common methods. However researchers, Lewis and Slava Epstein, came up with an innovative technique where a soil sample is diluted with agar and suspended in a chamber surrounded by a semi-permeable membrane. Their results were published on January 7th in Nature.
This unique growth method allows the bacterium to grown more like it does in nature and allows a level of biodiversity that is missing in current culture methods. The antibiotic has not yet been proven to kill bacterial infection in humans, but assuming it works after more testing, “a drug like this must be reserved for serious diseases and not given to general practitioners to spread around like aspirin."
“The rate of evolution of large-scale resistance will depend on the dosage and frequency of [the antibiotic’s use],” added Princeton microbiologist Julia Bos.
So with quiet optimism things are looking up in the fight against infection...if we are careful. Go science!