DOI: 10.3390/antibiotics12081267 ISSN: 2079-6382

Returning to Nature for the Next Generation of Antimicrobial Therapeutics

Craig R. MacNair, Caressa N. Tsai, Steven T. Rutherford, Man-Wah Tan
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • General Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology

Antibiotics found in and inspired by nature are life-saving cures for bacterial infections and have enabled modern medicine. However, the rise in resistance necessitates the discovery and development of novel antibiotics and alternative treatment strategies to prevent the return to a pre-antibiotic era. Once again, nature can serve as a source for new therapies in the form of natural product antibiotics and microbiota-based therapies. Screening of soil bacteria, particularly actinomycetes, identified most of the antibiotics used in the clinic today, but the rediscovery of existing molecules prompted a shift away from natural product discovery. Next-generation sequencing technologies and bioinformatics advances have revealed the untapped metabolic potential harbored within the genomes of environmental microbes. In this review, we first highlight current strategies for mining this untapped chemical space, including approaches to activate silent biosynthetic gene clusters and in situ culturing methods. Next, we describe how using live microbes in microbiota-based therapies can simultaneously leverage many of the diverse antimicrobial mechanisms found in nature to treat disease and the impressive efficacy of fecal microbiome transplantation and bacterial consortia on infection. Nature-provided antibiotics are some of the most important drugs in human history, and new technologies and approaches show that nature will continue to offer valuable inspiration for the next generation of antibacterial therapeutics.

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