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Developing new drugs with fungi


Fungi has huge potential as a source for developing new medicines, researchers in Gothenburg have discovered.

A team from Chalmers University of Technology has used genome sequencing to source genes capable of producing bioactive compounds, like antibiotics. This could prove a critical breakthrough in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

Penicillin, the first antibiotic made in large numbers, is derived from Penicillium fungi. The Chalmers team sequenced the genomes of nine varieties of Penicillin species and found there is a massive untapped resource here for making new drugs.

“We found that the fungi have enormous, previously untapped, potential for the production of new antibiotics and other bioactive compounds, such as cancer medicines,” says Jens Christian Nielsen, a PhD student at the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering.

With bacteria increasingly able to fight off antibiotics, it is crucial alternatives are found to prevent infections, which would previously have been killed of with an antibiotic, from becoming deadly again.

“Previous efforts to find new antibiotics have mainly focused on bacteria. Fungi have been hard to study – we know very little of what they can do – but we do know that they develop bioactive substances naturally, as a way to protect themselves and survive in a competitive environment. This made it logical to apply our research tools to fungi,” added Professor Jens Nielsen, another Chalmers researcher.

The study was published in the journal, Nature Microbiology.

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