Weeds reveal novel antibiotic in new study

Researchers just discovered a new antibiotic in the common field weed.

Tyler MacDonald | Oct 09, 2019

A team of researchers just published a study that reveals new antibiotically active chemicals in the leaf of a common field weed. The data suggests that this microcosm contains many unknown natural products that could lead to the creation of novel drugs.

Most antibiotics that are used today are created from natural products stemming from bacteria and used to fend off other bacteria. And the new microcosm, called phyllosphere, is poor in nutrients.

"That gives rise to intense competitive pressure," said study co-author Julia Vorholt. "As a result, bacteria produce a diversity of substances that allow them to defend their habitat."

The reason lies in the fact that despite low food supply, the phyllosphere contains numerous organisms. In particular, the team examined over 200 bacterial strains in the thale cresses.

"The big question was obviously whether we had simply found natural products that are known from other habitats, or whether we had stumbled onto compounds with totally new characteristics," said study co-author Jrn Piel.

This has many important implications for antibiotic research, which is aiming to find drugs with unique mechanisms of action that differ the drugs on today's market. Ultimately, the goal is to overcome the existing antibiotic resistance.

"Now we need to clarify whether macrobrevin and other newly discovered substances are also effective against bacteria that cause disease in humans," Piel said.

But although he says this is an exciting possibility, even more exciting is the fact that there are many active antibiotic products waiting to be discovered in the phyllosphere.

The findings were published in Nature Microbiology.