Using synthetic biology to make new antibiotics

July 22, 2014, Victoria University

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.

Explore further: Antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in food products for the first time

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 bacteria found in food products for the first time

June 13, 2014
A team of researchers with the University of Saskatchewan in Canada has found the first instance of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in a food product—Pseudomonas in a squid sold at a Chinese grocery store in Saskatoon. They ...

Sewage treatment contributes to antibiotic resistance

July 21, 2014
Wastewater treatment plants are unwittingly helping to spread antibiotic resistance, say scientists.

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

Researchers illustrate how muscle growth inhibitor is activated, could aid in treating ALS

January 19, 2018
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine are part of an international team that has identified how the inactive or latent form of GDF8, a signaling protein also known as myostatin responsible for ...

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

Weight flux alters molecular profile, study finds

January 17, 2018
The human body undergoes dramatic changes during even short periods of weight gain and loss, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Secrets of longevity protein revealed in new study

January 17, 2018
Named after the Greek goddess who spun the thread of life, Klotho proteins play an important role in the regulation of longevity and metabolism. In a recent Yale-led study, researchers revealed the three-dimensional structure ...

The HLF gene protects blood stem cells by maintaining them in a resting state

January 17, 2018
The HLF gene is necessary for maintaining blood stem cells in a resting state, which is crucial for ensuring normal blood production. This has been shown by a new research study from Lund University in Sweden published in ...

Magnetically applied MicroRNAs could one day help relieve constipation

January 17, 2018
Constipation is an underestimated and debilitating medical issue related to the opioid epidemic. As a growing concern, researchers look to new tools to help patients with this side effect of opioid use and aging.

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.