New antibiotic discovered in the nose

Infections through antibiotic resistant bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are among the leading causes of death worldwide. Source: Wikimedia

Scientists all over the world have been on the search for new antibiotics, since existing bacterial pathogens have over time become resistant to our most effective drugs. Time is running out and the world’s leading scientists have warned of an impending “Antibiotic Armageddon” by 2025. But now scientists from the University of Tübingen and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) have discovered a bacterium Staphylococcus lugdunesis in the human nose that produces a previously unknown antibiotic against multiresistant bacteria.

A potential lifesaver, the scientists have published the research results in Nature (2016, online publication) that tests on mice have shown the substance, which has been named Lugdunin, is able to combat multiresistant pathogens, where several other antibiotics have become ineffective. Antibiotic resistant bacteria are increasingly endangering the recovery of patients putting researchers worldwide under extreme pressure to find new and effective microorganisms. Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, like the pathogen Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which colonises on human skin, are among the leading causes of death worldwide.

Nose bacterium produces an antibiotic

Now the DZIF researchers together with scientists from the University of Tübingen have explored extremely unusual terrain – namely the human nose. “Normally antibiotics are formed only by soil bacteria and fungi,” says Andreas Peschel from the Interfaculty Institute for Microbiology and Infection Medicine Tübingen (IMIT).  “The notion that human microflora may also be a source of antimicrobial agents is a new discovery.”

S. lugdunesis keeps MRSA pathogens in check

The natural habitat of the harmful Staphylococcus bacteria is the human nasal cavity. In their experiments, the scientists found that Staphylococcus aureus is rarely found when Staphylococcus lugdunesis is present in the nose. In future studies, scientist will examine whether Lugdunin could actually be used in therapy. One potential use is introducing harmless Lugdunin-forming bacteria to patients at risk from MRSA as a preventative measure.

Antibiotic Armageddon

Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem for physicians. “There are estimates which suggests that more people will die from resistant bacteria in the coming decades than cancer,” says Peschel’s colleague Bernhard Krismer. This shocking development has been brought on by the improper use of antibiotics. As many of the pathogens are part of human microflora on skin and mucous membranes, they cannot be avoided. Particularly for patients with serious underlying illnesses and weakened immune systems they represent a high risk – these patients are easy prey for the pathogens. The scientist’s published study in Nature opens up new ways to develop sustainable strategies for infection prevention and to find new antibiotics such as in the human body.