The re-emerging role of microbial natural products in antibiotic discovery.

Research paper by Olga O Genilloud

Indexed on: 14 Jun '14Published on: 14 Jun '14Published in: Antonie van Leeuwenhoek


New classes of antibacterial compounds are urgently needed to respond to the high frequency of occurrence of resistances to all major classes of known antibiotics. Microbial natural products have been for decades one of the most successful sources of drugs to treat infectious diseases but today, the emerging unmet clinical need poses completely new challenges to the discovery of novel candidates with the desired properties to be developed as antibiotics. While natural products discovery programs have been gradually abandoned by the big pharma, smaller biotechnology companies and research organizations are taking over the lead in the discovery of novel antibacterials. Recent years have seen new approaches and technologies being developed and integrated in a multidisciplinary effort to further exploit microbial resources and their biosynthetic potential as an untapped source of novel molecules. New strategies to isolate novel species thought to be uncultivable, and synthetic biology approaches ranging from genome mining of microbial strains for cryptic biosynthetic pathways to their heterologous expression have been emerging in combination with high throughput sequencing platforms, integrated bioinformatic analysis, and on-site analytical detection and dereplication tools for novel compounds. These different innovative approaches are defining a completely new framework that is setting the bases for the future discovery of novel chemical scaffolds that should foster a renewed interest in the identification of novel classes of natural product antibiotics from the microbial world.