Medical

New antibiotic found in tobacco flowers tears into superbugs

New antibiotic found in tobacc...
La Trobe researchers have isolated a peptide from tobacco flowers that could be a promising new antibiotic candidate
La Trobe researchers have isolated a peptide from tobacco flowers that could be a promising new antibiotic candidate
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La Trobe researchers have isolated a peptide from tobacco flowers that could be a promising new antibiotic candidate
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La Trobe researchers have isolated a peptide from tobacco flowers that could be a promising new antibiotic candidate

The world is in desperate need of new antibiotics, as bacteria continue to evolve and develop resistance to the ones we have. Now, researchers at La Trobe University have found a peptide in the flower of a tobacco plant that could be the first of a brand new kind of antibiotic, hopefully helping us avoid the looming doomsday of superbugs.

Antibiotics were one of the most important scientific discoveries in human history, as the ability to fight infection made routine surgery and common illnesses much less life-threatening. But overuse and overprescription of these drugs has weakened their benefits, to the point where many are no longer effective and we could be headed back into "the dark ages of medicine."

"Infectious diseases are a major global health problem, accounting for more than one in eight deaths and mortality rates are predicted to skyrocket over the next 30 years," says Mark Hulett, an author of a study describing the new find. "Antibiotic resistance at the current rate will eventually lead to the exhaustion of effective long-term drug options. It's imperative we develop new antibiotic treatments."

The search is on, and scientists have already found promising new antibiotic candidates in all sorts of unexpected places, such as rattlesnake venom, platypus milk, berries, honey, maple syrup, human breast milk, fungi and frog skin.

Now we can add tobacco flowers to the list. The ornamental plant Nicotiana alata protects itself from infection by producing anti-fungal molecules, and the La Trobe team isolated a peptide known as NaD1 from the flowers to test if it could be put to work as an antimicrobial agent for human use.

The peptide was found to be effective against a type of microorganism that most antibiotics can't kill – Candida albicans. This common species of yeast is often found in the human gut and mouth and, although it's normally harmless, it can pose a threat to people with compromised immune systems.

In their experiments using the Australian Synchrotron, the researchers found that NaD1 destroyed the fungus in an effective, violent manner – by puncturing the outer cell walls and ripping them open.

"They act in a different way to existing antibiotics and allow us to explore new ways of fighting infections," says Hulett. "It's an exciting discovery that could be harnessed to develop a new class of life-saving antimicrobial therapy to treat a range of infectious diseases, including multi-drug-resistant golden staph, and viral infections such as HIV, Zika virus, Dengue and Murray River Encephalitis."

The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Source:La Trobe University

9 comments
Fred's Brother
Maybe with "Crispr" adjustments amplified by the insertion of beneficial RNA, the new finding could be harnessed for the potential.
CraigAllenCorson
Overuse and overprescription were surely factors in the creation of superbugs, but I believe that the biggest contributor to the problem would be patients who don't follow their doctor's instructions to take their antibiotic pills until they are gone. Far too many start feeling better, then ask themselves "Why am I still taking these?", and they stop. That, of course, leaves behind nothing but the strongest of the targeted microbes, the "superbugs".
lasenora
Researchers should take care to explore that the substance that t kills the superbugs is not what causes the anaphylaxis in those humans who are super sensative to the protein in tobacco.
DomainRider
This article seems to confuse an antimicrobial with an antibiotic. An anti-fungal is not an antibiotic; candida albicans yeast is a fungus, not a bacterium.
EZ
I have been battling Candida Albicans on and off for 30 years. I could really use some of those flowers. The search is on. Thanks for the tip. Ironically, my problem started from taking to many antibiotics for bronchitis. Once you get this s**t it never really goes away. Stays dormant and makes a comeback.
S Michael
They key is to learn how to control and manipulate bacteria, not make more drugs. Find out how they adapt so quickly. Is there intelligence there? A new type of intelligence that we have not learned how to communicate with?
JimFox
How long before this latest antibiotic is neutralized by bacterial evolution? We are in a no-win situation. Perhaps immunity via manipulation of the human genome is the only long-term answer.
Wolf0579
If it weren't for human greed, compounded by human stupidity, we wouldn't be in this mess.
ShellyBuckman
Yes and the tobacco industry also used to fund research that told the American public that smoking was healthy and that more doctors smoked Camel than any other brand and Luckey's will save your voice, etc. Look it up folks. So what do you do if you're a struggling tobacco industry? Find a new way to make your product 'medicine'. Yes, nicotine is highly toxic and can be used to kill things. So can many other poisons. It doesn't mean we should be using them.