Using synthetic biology to make new antibiotics

July 22, 2014

Research at Victoria University of Wellington could lead to a new generation of antibiotics, helping tackle the global issue of 'superbugs' that are resistant to modern medicine.

Led by Mark Calcott, who has just completed his PhD study, under the supervision of Dr David Ackerley, an associate professor in the School of Biological Science, the research is delivering new knowledge about how synthetic biology might be used to counter bacteria that have become resistant to existing antibiotics.

The recently published study defines new ways that microbes, which are used to make some commonly used types of antibiotics, can be reengineered to produce modified forms of the original molecules.

"Part of the problem is that people have historically been careless when using antibiotics, which has, one-by-one, allowed bacteria to build resistance, thrive and multiply. We're smarter now, but at a time when we're running out of options," says Dr Ackerley.

"There is a serious and immediate need for new antibiotics—either we have to develop the next generation or find clever and affordable ways of modifying the ones we currently have," he says.

"The basis of our research is the idea that the microbial machinery (enzymes) that makes a particular antibiotic can be rearranged, to make a different antibiotic that won't recognise. The will still fight infection, and if we can use them in a more targeted way, bacteria won't become resistant so easily."

He says the ultimate goal of the study is to be able to produce high yields of new and affordable that 'superbugs' don't recognise and are not resistant to.

Results have been published by the American Society for Microbiology journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

More information: Biosynthesis of novel pyoverdines by domain substitution in a non-ribosomal peptide synthetase of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Mark J. Calcott, Jeremy G. Owen, Iain L. Lamont, and David F. Ackerley. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. AEM.01453-14; published ahead of print 11 July 2014, DOI: 10.1128/AEM.01453-14

Related Stories

Antibiotic-resistant pathogens and poultry

June 18, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—With recent headlines about dangerous "superbugs," an outbreak of Salmonella from chicken parts on the West Coast and the announcement by a national restaurant chain that it plans to serve only "antibiotic-free" ...

Britain launching global superbug fight

July 2, 2014

Britain is to lead a global effort to combat antibiotic-resistant superbugs that threaten to knock medicine "back into the dark ages," Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday.

Recommended for you

A cheaper, high-performance prosthetic knee

July 30, 2015

In the last two decades, prosthetic limb technology has grown by leaps and bounds. Today, the most advanced prostheses incorporate microprocessors that work with onboard gyroscopes, accelerometers, and hydraulics to enable ...

Crystal clear images uncover secrets of hormone receptors

July 31, 2015

Many hormones and neurotransmitters work by binding to receptors on a cell's exterior surface. This activates receptors causing them to twist, turn and spark chemical reactions inside cells. NIH scientists used atomic level ...

Flow means 'go' for proper lymph system development

July 27, 2015

The lymphatic system provides a slow flow of fluid from our organs and tissues into the bloodstream. It returns fluid and proteins that leak from blood vessels, provides passage for immune and inflammatory cells from the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.