Natural products from ancient microbiomes

With the advent of both multidrug-resistant infectious diseases, and new emerging pathogens, novel anti-infectives, in particular antimicrobial natural products, are urgently needed.

By far, the greatest number of therapeutic antibiotics developed to date are derived from bacterial natural products. However, conventional screens aimed at identifying natural products are faced with increasing re-discovery rates of already known antibiotics. This in turn has led to an alarming decrease in launches of new antibiotics. Hence, novel approaches are required in order to identify new bioactive natural products.

Here, we propose a highly innovative concept to access an untapped source of natural product diversity: ancient and traditional microbiomes. The strategy relies on:

  1. The re-constitution of biosynthetic genes from ancient DNA in ‘modern’ bacteria. 
  2. The identification of bacteria from traditional microbiomes that produce antibiotics.
  3. Retracing the evolution and functionality of antibiotics resistance genes to infer the presence of antibiotics and to understand the emergence of multidrug resistance in current pathogens.

The department Paleobiotechnology is funded by the Werner Siemens Foundation.

Paleobiotechnology

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