In the heart of North Carolina, a secret buried in the ground could change the course of modern medicine. Antibiotic resistance, one of the gravest medical challenges of our time, may finally have met a noteworthy adversary: clovibactin. Extracted from a unique bacterium, this compound could not only fight resistant infections but also prevent new resistance from forming.
The discovery, made by the laboratories of NovoBiotic, opens a new era of hope in the fight against bacterial diseases. But what are the real potential of this molecule?
Clovibactin: the key hidden in the soil
Nature has always had a fascinating way of surprising us, and this time is no exception. Antibiotic resistance continues to worry the medical community, but the solution may have been under our feet all along.
It all began when scientists isolated clovibactin from a particular strain of bacteria, Eleftheria terrae, found in the sandy soil of North Carolina. What makes clovibactin so special? Its mode of action, which could make pathogens less prone to developing drug resistance.
Ten years after the finish line
Although it takes about ten years to develop a drug that doctors can actually use, the enthusiasm of the team at NovoBiotic, the pharmaceutical start-up that recently unearthed the potential of clovibactin is palpable.
The microbiologist of Northeastern University involved in research, Kim Lewis, indulged in enthusiastic statements: "I think this is the absolute milestone in the evolution towards the prevention of antibiotic resistance." Very high expectations, if we think of the problem that needs to be solved as soon as possible.
Resistance to current antibiotics, and the importance of looking for others
Antibiotic resistance is a major threat to global health. In 2019, it was the third leading cause of death worldwide. It is expected that by 2050 it will contribute to ten million deaths a year, more than how many produces air pollution.
In this context, we are only at the beginning but the discovery of Clovibactin offers a glimmer of hope. Its features are truly unique, especially in the way it expands our understanding of antibiotics and their future possibilities.
The challenge of bacterial cultivation
One of the major challenges in developing new antibiotics is that 99% of bacterial species do not grow easily in the laboratory. Lewis and his team took an innovative approach, extending the incubation period of sandy soil in hopes of encouraging new types of bacteria to grow in the lab.
And they won the "bet". After three months, a new species emerged, the Eleftheria terrae carolina from which the team isolated Clovibactin.
A unique mechanism of action
Clovibactin, I mentioned earlier, has a unique way of working against antibiotic resistance. It is positioned on the inner envelope of the bacteria, binding to molecules of peptidoglycan, which bacteria use to build their cell membrane. This mechanism forces the bacteria to destroy their membrane in a vain attempt to eliminate this "intruder".
Markus Weingarth, a chemist at Utrecht University, sums it up as follows: "Because Clovibactin was isolated from bacteria that could not be cultured before, the pathogenic bacteria have never seen such an antibiotic and have not had time to develop resistance."
Antibiotic resistance, towards a safer future
Despite the enthusiasm, there is still a long way to go. However, research shows that the potential is enormous: this discovery could not only save lives, but also pave the way for new research and innovations in medicine.
The research was published in the journal Cell. For more details and insights, I suggest you consult the original article that I link to you here.