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First new antibiotic discovered in 30 years teixobactin using iChip technology could end our antibiotic crisis - Quartz


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First new antibiotic discovered in 30 years:

The rise of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics is a growing worry and threatens to put healthcare back to the early 20th century. Such resistance to drugs was inevitable, because bacteria evolve and learn to defend themselves. But we are worried now because new classes of antibiotics aren’t being found.

Now we may have to worry a little less. Researchers have discovered a new drug, called teixobactin, which marks the launch of a new class of antibiotics. Better still, they show that even highly sensitive bacteria may not easily develop resistance to this new antibiotic.

Beyond the discovery of the drug, their study published in Nature is remarkable for another reason. The technology developed by these researchers could herald the discovery of many new classes of antibiotics.

How iChip works:

In a single scoop of soil, bacteria and fungi number in the millions. They also come in thousands of varieties, and survive by fighting each other. We know this because for the past century, several newly discovered antibiotics have been found by isolating them from thebacteria and fungi that produce them to defend their own lives.

The trouble, however, is that only about 1% of the microbes in the soil (or sea water) can be reliably grown under lab conditions. This means that so far we have not been able to study the remaining 99%, which are bound to produce antibiotics unknown to us.

This is the problem Kim Lewis and Slava Epstein at Northeastern University in Boston and colleagues have been busy trying to solve. After more than a decade of work, they have a solution in the iChip technology.

To make it work, a sample of soil is diluted and then poured on the iChip, which consists of hundreds of small holes. Because of the dilution, it is hoped that only one microbe is caught in each hole.

iChip technology at work. Losee L. Ling et al / Nature

The iChip is then covered with membranes on both sides and put back into the soil sample. The membranes contains pores that are only large enough for chemical nutrients to flow in but small enough to block the movement of any bacteria. This means the single bacteria in each of the holes in the iChip can consume all the nutrients it would naturally find in the environment and multiply, but not be contaminated with other bacteria in the soil.

Remarkably, it has been shown that this method can help nearly one in two bacteria to start growing in the iChip cells. Better still, three-quarters of the iChip bacteria can then be transferred to and grown in lab solutions. Quite the improvement from the 1% that could be previously grown in labs.

This sort of contradicts the other Golden Quarter article.

Unless one argues that many, many more little Boomer kids were already eating more dirt in suburban yards during that period of time... so the seed of this innovation already existed back then.

While that might be true, the Golden Quarter was an overreaction.

There's a lot of big breakthroughs coming. This looks like a promising one. 

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