Research has shown that fungi can be a potential gold mine for the pharmaceutical sector. Researchers from the Chalmers University of Technology have developed a method to find new antibiotics from nature’s own resources. In this age, where bacteria are proving more and more resistant to antibiotics, Fungi may be our soldier!
Since the discovery of penicillin antibiotics have saved millions of lives. But in recent years, we have come across a new term: antibiotic resistance. This will lead to simple infections to be lethal. There is an urgent need for new antibiotics.
The first antibiotic to be mass-produced was penicillin was derived from Penicillium fungi. In the search for new antibiotics, researchers sequenced the genomes of nine different types of Penicillium species. And they were amazed by the findings:
“We found that the fungi have enormous, previously untapped, the potential for the production of new antibiotics and other bioactive compounds, such as cancer medicines,” says Jens Christian Nielsen, a Ph.D. student at the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering.
In the recent study published in Nature journal, the research group has scanned the genomes of 24 different kinds of fungi to find genes responsible for the production of various bioactive compounds, like antibiotics. There was more than 1000 pathway discovered, which showed great potential for fungi to produce a large variety of natural and bioactive chemicals which could be used as pharmaceuticals.
They followed the production of the antibiotic, yanuthone, and identified new fungi, but also that some species which could produce a new version of the drug.
All in all, the study has proven vast potential for fungi, which not only includes producing new antibiotics but also enabling more efficient production of existing ones and maybe also more effective versions of the existing ones.
Before this, only bacteria were focused in search of new antibiotics. There is very little known about fungi, as it has proven hard to study. But they knew it could develop bioactive substances naturally to protect themselves and survive in harsh conditions. This made the scientist research on fungi too.
Researchers now have various paths to follow. One way of moving forward could be to look further at the production of the new yanuthone compound. The Chalmers researchers have also drawn up a map that makes it possible to compare hundreds of genes in the continuous evaluation of bioactive products with potent drugs insight.
It is impossible to determine how long it would take to launch these new antibiotics in the market. The main problem is that pharmaceutical companies do not want to spend money on new antibiotics. And governmental support is highly necessary, especially for smaller companies.