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High speed production of new antibiotics that could treat MRSA and drug-resistant TB

Scientists at the University of Bristol have found a faster and cheaper way to produce new antibiotics to tackle drug-resistant superbugs.

There was a 2,000 per cent increase in production when the genes involved in the pleuromutilin production were expressed in a different type of fungus by the research team.

This is considered to be a breakthrough because of the need for the synthesis of new antibiotics that are cost effective in the wake of growing resistance to existing antibiotics.

Isolated from the mushroom Clitopilus passeckerianus, derivatives of the antibiotic pleuromutilin are few of the new class of antibiotics to enter the market as human therapeutics.

Scientists say that these have the potential to treat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and extensively drug resistant tuberculosis (XTB).

However, basidiomycete fungi, the mushrooms from which this type of antibiotic is made from is not responsive to strain improvement and fermentation.

Thus the team of Bristol University scientists carried out the research task of identifying the genes involved in the production of pleuromutilin with the help of pharmaceutical giant GSK.

It was discovered that to produce the antibiotic in C. passeckerianus, a seven-gene cluster is required which was then reconstructed within a more industrial fungus, Aspergillus oryzae which belongs to ascomycetes, a different group of fungi.

This resulted in a significant increase (2,106 per cent) in production.

The seven-gene pleuromutilin is the first gene cluster from a basidiomycete to be successfully expressed in an ascomycete, paving way for the exploitation of a group of fungi overlooked traditionally which is metabolically rich.

The developments would result in the production of novel derivatives and new antibiotics in a rapid yet cost effective manner.

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