New antibiotic against multi-resistant germs discovered

Petri dish with Staphylococcus aureus culture: negative (left) and positive (right) MRSA test.

A newly discovered class of lipopeptide antibiotics fights multi-resistant bacteria. Scientists at the TU Berlin are working on translating their findings into new drugs.

They are particularly feared in hospitals: multi-resistant pathogens against which conventional antibiotics are increasingly losing their effectiveness. A newly discovered class of active ingredients could help to solve the problem. Scientists from the Technical University (TU) Berlin and the French company DEINOVE discovered a class of lipopeptide antibiotics that displays strong activity against pathogenic bacteria. The researchers published their results in the journal “Nature Chemical Biology”.

An active ingredient with great potential

The team led by Professor Roderich Süßmuth from the Institute of Chemistry at the Technical University of Berlin isolated the compound that is effective against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and other bacteria from a culture of the bacterium Microbacterium arborescens. The scientists named the newly discovered molecule “microvionin”.

“Bacteria and fungi are a very good source of bioactive substances, because in the competition for limited resources in nature, microorganisms fight each other,” explains Süßmuth in a statement from the university. “We can take advantage of this.” The molecule attracted the attention of the research team because of its previously unknown chemical structure and its unusual biosynthesis. The active ingredient consists of a peptide and a fatty acid part, with three of the amino acids being arranged in two ring structures. “We are also interested in the rather unusual fatty acid modification. This type of interaction has never been observed before,” explains Süßmuth. The close cooperation of two enzymes means that no unwanted by-products are produced when the molecule forms rings.

“Genome mining” helped to discover more than ten other drug candidates

This unexpected structure and biosynthesis encouraged the researchers to search for other similar compounds in nature – and they found some. Using “genome mining”, they analysed numerous bacterial genomes and discovered more than ten other drug candidates. “We are also trying to isolate the other molecules and determine relationships between structure and bioactivity,“ said Süßmuth.

The next step is to develop microvionin into an actual medicine. This could be an important step in the fight against multi-resistant bacteria.

Further information

  1. The anti-staphylococcal lipolanthines are ribosomally synthesized lipopeptides, Wiebach V et al., Nature Chemical Biology

  2. Krankenhauskeim MRSA: Neues Antibiotikum entdeckt, Technische Universität Berlin

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