The key to defeat antibiotic-resistance in tuberculosis may be at our feet—literally.
The microbe that causes TB often mutates when an antibiotic such as rifamycin is used, rendering it resistant to the treatment.
Now researchers at Rockefeller University say they've found a natural antibiotic that could take rifamycin's place. And it's found in soil.
“I wanted to find out whether nature had also made Rif analogs—molecules that look like rifamycin, but that have slight differences,” said Sean F. Brady, Evnin professor at the university.
The research was recently published in Nature Communications.
Natural antibiotics found in soil called kanglemycins are structured similarly to rifamycin, but have key differences: They bind to mutated bacteria sequences, still allowing them to combat TB, unlike rifamycin.
Brady hypothesizes that kanglemycins may have developed in soil in response to the types of evolutionary pressures also seen in hospitals.
“It's possible that natural antibiotics are under the same selective pressure that we're putting antibiotics under in the clinic. And if that's the case, then we would see natural analogs to rifamycin, like kangs, that overcome resistance,” Brady said.
This discovery could help researchers develop stronger antibiotics to fight TB, though there's still work to be done.
“We'd still like to see increased potency and broader activity against resistant bugs,” Rockefeller research associate professor Elizabeth Campbell said. “But this study tells us that we're on the right track.”