26 May 2015
Bacteria rich fynbos soil could bolster the battle against disease with its own unique antibiotics, according to new research undertaken at Stellenbosch University.
In his quest to discover new antibiotics, Dr Du Preez van Staden turned to fynbos to look for a group of peptide antibiotics, called lantibiotics. These have the same function as strong antibiotics that are used to treat bacterial infections.
Van Staden says of the two lantibiotic-producing bacteria found in the soil, one helps to produce a new lantibiotic that works to kill disease-causing bacteria.
“Results showed that the bacteria from fynbos soils produced lantibiotics that are active against a range of bacteria,” he says.
This includes Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a type of bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. It can cause mild infection on the skin, resulting in sores or boils. In some cases it can cause more serious skin infections or infect the lungs, the bloodstream or surgical wounds.
It is spread by contact.
“We also found that these lantibiotics were just as effective as a well-known commercially available product used for the treatment of skin infections and did not negatively affect wound healing,” Van Staden adds. “The role lantibiotics may play in wound healing is currently being investigated.”
Apart from methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, he says, lantibiotics also have the potential to help fight bacteria that cause abdominal infections, crusting blisters on the skin, infections of medical implants and soft tissue under the skin, gastroenteritis, infection of the back of the throat and scarlet fever.
“Lantibiotics could be an attractive alternative to traditional antibiotics/antimicrobial treatments and could also be used in conjunction with commercially available antimicrobial products for a more effective reduction in bacterial resistance.”
The newly discovered lantibiotic has a stronger stability than two other known lantibiotics. “Commercially, this would possibly translate into a product with a longer shelf-life.”
He says his research could have a significant health impact because skin and soft tissue infections are the most common types of infections, made worse by the increase in antibiotic resistance.