Scientists are making an exciting discovery as they strive to discover new antibiotics.
Scientists who shed light on the bacteria-busting properties of Northern Ireland’s soil have made another exciting discovery in the quest for new antibiotics.
The Traditional Medicine Group, an international collaboration of scientists from the University of Swansea in Brazil and Northern Ireland, has discovered more antibiotic-producing species and believes it may have identified new types of antibiotics with potential life-saving consequences.
Antibiotic-resistant germs could kill up to 1.3 million people in Europe by 2050 – The World Health Organization (WHO) describes the problem as “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development today”.
The search for alternative antibiotics to combat multiple resistance has prompted researchers to explore new sources, including popular drugs that focus on environments in which well-known antibiotic producers such as Streptomyces can be found.
The traditional medicine group has discovered that the soils used in ancient Irish folk medicine on the plains of West Fermanagh contain many types of antibiotic-producing organisms. This region of caves, alkaline grasslands, and swamps are scattered with many remnants of earlier Neolithic dwellings.
One of the members of the research team, Dr. Jerry Quinn, a former resident of Boho, County Fermanagh, had been familiar with the area’s healing traditions for many years. Several years ago, analyzing the soil there led to the team discovering a previously unknown strain of bacteria that is effective against four of the six largest hospital superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics, including MRSA.
Since then, their research has continued but due to local religious sensitivities and the self-determining nature of the original site, the group moved their research to another area of West Fermanagh Falls that preserved the basic alkaline nature of the grassland while also providing a link to traditional folk medicine.
“The fact that traditional medicine has been incorporated into many local people has led us to believe that there is a good potential to find strong antibiotic-producing organisms in other locations in the limestone hills,” said Dr. Paul Fessi, one of the principal researchers from Swansea University.
The group discovered that their latest discovery was able to express a wider range of antimicrobial activity than their previous discovery.
The results of this study have now been published in MDPI Applied Microbiology The DNA sequences were deposited in the US National Collection.
Antibiotic tests conducted by Dr. Quinn, Sims Addo of the University of Ulster, and Nada Al-Harbi from the University of Swansea revealed that Streptomyces sp. CJ13 inhibits the growth of multi-resistant organisms such as:
- Gram-negative Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a common opportunistic pathogen associated with chronic lung infections in CF patients;
- MRSA, a common opportunistic pathogen that is often resistant to many antibiotics;
- Anaerobic bacteria, usually found in deep wounds, that cause serious infections. And the
- Candida, a type of yeast that is often overlooked in mixed bacterial infections.
The group has not yet chemically identified the compounds responsible for antibiotic activity, but preliminary analysis indicates genetic similarities with other known antibiotic production genes.
Although the antibiotic genes present in Streptomyces sp. CJ13 is not a match for typical antimicrobials, it raises the interesting possibility that these could be new types of antibiotics.
Due to the significant contributions made by Streptomyces in the fields of cancer and antiviral treatments, team member Hamid Bakshi added: “We are confident of the great potential of our recent discovery to make many interesting discoveries.”