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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: April 08, 2015

Turning to freshwater sources to fight drug-resistant tuberculosis, other infections

"Diaza-anthracene Antibiotics from a Freshwater-Derived Actinomycete with Selective Antibacterial Activity toward Mycobacterium tuberculosis"
ACS Infectious Diseases

The discovery of antibiotics produced by soil fungi and bacteria gave the world life-saving medicine. But new antimicrobials from this resource have become scarce as the threat of drug resistance grows. Now, scientists have started mining lakes and rivers for potential pathogen-fighters, and they’ve found one from Lake Michigan that is effective against drug-resistant tuberculosis. Their report on the new compound appears in the journal ACS Infectious Diseases.

Brian T. Murphy and colleagues point out that the emergence of drug-resistant strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a serious, global health threat. In 2013, these bacteria caused 210,000 deaths globally and 480,000 infections, of which more than half were in China, India and Russia, according to the World Health Organization. The development of new antibiotics to fight them has not yet yielded an optimal solution. Despite a few recent successes, scientists are having a hard time finding new candidates from soil-dwelling microbes. Murphy’s team wanted to see whether bacteria that live in freshwater — a habitat that has been largely unexplored for this purpose — could be a new source of antibiotics.

The researchers screened an extensive collection of freshwater bacteria metabolites and identified a new compound that stops the growth of M. tuberculosis. In lab tests, the compound worked at least as well as current treatments for tuberculosis, and it inhibited drug-resistant strains.

The author acknowledges funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, the American Cancer Society and the National institutes of Health.

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Lake Michigan and other freshwater bodies could be the next big sources of undiscovered antibiotics.
Credit: dpenn/iStock/Thinkstock