Are undiscovered antibiotics ‘silently waiting’ in our own bodies? Researchers scour microbiome for helpful genes

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Image: vrx/Shutterstock

[A] study led by Dr. Mohamed Donia from Princeton University pushed the dark microbiome world into the light by targeting the core marker of their individual identity: DNA. Combining a new computational algorithm with synthetic biology, the team developed a platform that scours the microbiome genome for genes that encode drug-like molecules.

An initial bioprospecting screen identified a handful of molecules with powerful antibiotic properties, some remarkably similar to those readily used in the clinic. But this proof-of-concept is just the start; many more life-saving chemicals could be silently waiting inside our microbial dark matter.

“It is amazing to think that the human microbiome has genes to make countless complex chemicals, but we don’t know what those chemicals are,” said Dr. Eric Schmidt, a chemist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, who did not participate in the study.

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We’re looking at “an unprecedented resource for drug discovery from within the human body,” the authors said.

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One thing is clear: as computational and sequencing technologies advance, we’ll get an increasingly sharper image of our “dark” microbiome universe. With luck, they may even help solve some of the most daunting health problems we face today.

Read full, original post: Scientists Found New Antibiotic Molecules—Right In the Human Microbiome

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