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MALACIDINS a new class of antibiotics

Researchers from The Rockefeller University have discovered a new class of antibiotics capable of killing off several antibiotic-resistant pathogens. This new family comes from molecules present in a large variety of soils and researchers hope it could be a useful weapon in our medical arsenal.
As reported in Nature Microbiology, the antibiotic compounds are a special class of peptides – special chains of amino acids – which require calcium for antibacterial activity. Calcium-dependent antibiotics are capable of targeting bacteria in a variety of ways and this characteristic makes them particularly effective. They can target the formation of the bacterial cell membrane or even destroy the cell wall.
The team looked for new members of this antibiotic family and tested them against known pathogens. The new antibiotics, called malacidins, were successful in sterilizing methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as the superbug MRSA, and the bacteria attacked with the malacidins did not develop resistance.

The new family of antibiotics comes from molecules present in large variety of soils. Scientists had analysed more than 1000 unique soil samples across US to better understand how new class of antibiotics is produced and how it can be exploited for fighting bacteria. They had used DNA information that encodes production of antibiotic in daptomycin to study it. This discovery could be a useful weapon in field of medicines.

Significance

Malacidins are distinctive class of antibiotics that are commonly encoded in soil microbiomes. They have never been reported in culture-based NP (Natural Products) discovery efforts.
Malacidins are active against multidrug-resistant pathogens, sterilise methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus  (MRSA) skin infections in animal wound model and did not select for resistance in laboratory conditions.
The malacidins was tested on rats with MRSA skin infections. The condition was cured, and even after 20 days of continued contact with malacidins, the rodents did not experience any side effects.

Concern

Malacidins only target gram-positive bacteria with a very thick cell wall. It is ineffective against gram-negative bacteria which cause cholera, pneumonia, sexually transmitted diseases, and plague. Thus, it does not make it universal cure against all bacteria.

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