Discovery has been made of a very potent antibiotic that promises to eliminate a wide range of disease-causing bacteria; and the powers of this new antibiotic lies in its ability to fight off bacteria that get resistant to existing bacteria.

This powerful antibiotic does not compromise its effectiveness in the face of drug-resistant bacteria, and it is also capable of eliminating constantly-mutating germs – reducing the incident of diseases that persist as a result of bacteria mutations and resistance to drugs.

Teixobactin, as the new antibiotic is called, was discovered by Dr. Kim Lewis and colleague Slava Epstein, both of the Northeastern University in Boston, by screening 10,000 bacterial strains found in the soil. They were able to screen all the soil bacterial strains and isolating teixobactin as the most potentially powerful through an iChip technology they have both developed.

This antibiotic has shown great promise and effectiveness in mice, but it is not yet tested on humans and it could take two to three years for clinical trials to be completed on humans. According to Lewis, “we’ll be in clinical trials two years from now.”

Over 23,000 people die each year in the US with two million others getting ill as a result of antibiotic-resistant bacteria – according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, about 80% of antibiotics are derived from microbes or fungi that live naturally in the environment, while the rest are synthetic. Earlier in the 20th century, scientists produced antibiotics with chemical substances that are extracted from certain bacteria and that can kill or damage other bacteria in humans and animals.

Dr. Lewis and Epstein were able to cultivate teixobactin with the iChip plate-like device dotted with several hundred chambers. “A cell from a different bacterium is dropped into each of the chambers and the iChip is placed under the soil. There, the individual bacteria go on to grow naturally and form colonies. The bacteria are placed on a Petri dish and overlaid with a target bacteria called Staph. After a while, if there is an empty zone in the Petri dish it means the colony below is making an antibiotic that prevents the growth of the Staph in the layer above.”

Teixobactin was eventually isolated after screening 10,000 bacterial strains in this manner, and it has been found effective against pneumonia, tuberculosis, and staph infection Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) which attacks about one million Americans yearly. Teixobactin works to kill bacteria by binding on to multiple targets and causing their cell walls to break down in total collapse – making it impossible for bacteria to mutate and resistant strains to emerge.

“They’ve looked where no one was looking before,” said Gerard Wright, a professor of biochemistry at McMaster University in Canada. “In a field full of doom and gloom, they’ve shown us a new way to develop antibiotics.”

This research study was published in the journal Nature.

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