Insects and their microbiomes are a new resource for novel antibiotics
US researchers have shown that insect-associated microbes provide their hosts with protection against infections, suggesting that insects and their microbiomes may be a rich new source of antibiotics for use in human medicine.
In an exhaustive search of microbes from more than 1,400 insects collected from diverse environments across North and South America, a researcher team around Cameron Currie, a University of Wisconsin–Madison professor of bacteriology, found that insect-borne microbes often outperformed soil bacteria in stopping some of the most common and dangerous antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
In their work, the scientists discovered a new antibiotic from a Brazilian fungus-farming ant, naming it cyphomycin. Cyphomycin was effective in lab tests against fungi resistant to most other antibiotics and combatted fungal infections without causing toxic side effects in a mouse model. The researchers have submitted a patent based on cyphomycin because of its effectiveness in these early tests, setting up the team to begin to do the significant additional work required before cyphomycin could be developed into a new drug used in the clinic. The study is the largest and most thorough to assess insect-associated microbes for antibiotic activity to date.
The work was published Jan. 31 2019 in the journal Nature Communications: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-08438-0