In a much-needed blow against rising antibiotic resistance, a team led by Jun Wang report in the 18 May 06 issue of Nature (Vol. 441, No. 7091, pp. 358-361) that it has discovered a potent natural antibiotic that kills many Gram-positive bacteria, including some of the biggest hospital threats: methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE).
The researchers screened 250,000 natural product extracts in whole-cell and biochemical assays, and hit upon platensimycin, a small molecule manufactured by a strain of Streptomyces platensis from a South African soil sample.
Platensimycin, which represents a previously unknown class of antibiotics, acts by blocking enzymes involved in the synthesis of fatty acids, the building blocks of lipids. No existing antibiotics target fatty-acid synthesis in this way. The antibiotic clears mice of S. aureus infection and does not appear to cause toxic side effects.
Marjorie Moeling (Director, Merck Research Laboratories Communications & Policy)
Eric D. Brown (McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada)
(C) Nature press release.
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