Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Fungi have enormous potential for new antibiotics


Fungi are a potential goldmine for the production of pharmaceuticals. This is shown by researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, who have developed a method for finding new antibiotics from nature's own resources. The findings - which could prove very useful in the battle against antibiotic resistance - were recently published in the journal, Nature Microbiology.

Antibiotics have saved millions of lives since they were discovered in the 1940s. But recently we've had to learn a new term: antibiotic resistance. More and more bacteria are developing their own protection against antibiotics, thereby becoming resistant to treatment. This will lead to simple infections becoming lethal once again. Our need for new antibiotics is urgent.

While Penicillia are already industrially used in the production of antibiotics, other pharmaceuticals, industrial enzymes and in the manufacturing of food products, new research reveals that their potential for production of novel antibiotics is far from exhausted. Penicillia are naturally found in temperate climates growing on organic matter, including soil, plant material, dung and food products. The isolation of novel bioactive compounds from these species might encompass a source of new antibiotics to fight infectious microorganisms.

Credit: Jens Christian Nielsen

The first antibiotic to be mass-produced was penicillin, derived from Penicillium fungi. In their quest for new antibiotics, Chalmers researchers sequenced the genomes of nine different types of Penicillium species. And the findings are amazing:

"We found that the fungi have enormous, previously untapped, potential for the production of new antibiotics and other bioactive compounds, such as cancer medicines," says Jens Christian Nielsen, a PhD student at the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering.

He works in a research team led by another Chalmers researcher with almost the same name: Professor Jens Nielsen.

In the study, recently published in the journal, Nature Microbiology, the research group scanned the genomes of 24 different kinds of fungi to find genes responsible for the production of various bioactive compounds, like antibiotics. More than 1000 pathways were discovered, showing immense potential for fungi to produce a large variety of natural and bioactive chemicals that could be used as pharmaceuticals.

In about 90 cases, the researchers were able to predict the chemical products of the pathways. As evidence of this, they followed the production of the antibiotic, yanuthone, and identified new fungi able to produce the compound, but also that some species could produce a new version of the drug.

All in all, the study shows vast potential for fungi, not only in producing new antibiotics but also in enabling more efficient production of existing ones - and maybe also more effective versions of the existing ones.

"It's important to find new antibiotics in order to give physicians a broad palette of antibiotics, existing ones as well as new ones, to use in treatment. This will make it harder for bacteria to develop resistance," explains Jens Christian Nielsen.

"Previous efforts to find new antibiotics have mainly focused on bacteria. Fungi have been hard to study - we know very little of what they can do - but we do know that they develop bioactive substances naturally, as a way to protect themselves and survive in a competitive environment. This made it logical to apply our research tools to fungi."

Researchers now have various paths to follow. One way of moving forward could be to look further at the production of the new yanuthone compound. The Chalmers researchers have also drawn up a map that makes it possible to compare hundreds of genes in the continuous evaluation of bioactive products with potent drugs in sight.

How long it would take to launch new antibiotics on the market is impossible to say.

"Governments need to act. The pharmaceutical industry doesn't want to spend money on new antibiotics, it's not lucrative. This is why our governments have to step in and, for instance, support clinical studies. Their support would make it easier to reach the market, especially for smaller companies. This could fuel production," says Jens Christian Nielsen.

Johanna Wilde | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Penicillium antibiotic antibiotics bacteria bioactive bioactive compounds fungi

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht Researchers identify key step in viral replication
13.03.2018 | University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>