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Plants could be key in developing new antibacterial drugs

Posted on the 27th February 2023

Plant Toxins Antibiotics

A powerful toxin found in plants is being hailed by scientists as a potential ‘game changer’ in developing new antibacterial drugs.

The study, published in the journal Nature Catalysis, has revealed that albicidin attacks bacteria in a completely different way to existing drugs, and this could be exploited to tackle bacterial disease.

Albicidin is produced by a bacterial plant pathogen called Xanthomonas albilineans that triggers a devastating disease, known as leaf scald, in sugarcane. The pathogen uses albicidin to attack the plant, but several decades ago, it was also found to be highly effective at killing bacteria.

The breakthrough follows repeated warnings from scientists that the steady rise of multidrug-resistant pathogens such as Ecoli presents a dangerous threat to healthcare across the planet.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has previously stated that antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development.

Over the years, the indiscriminate overuse of antibiotics has caused bacteria to develop resistance to them, resulting in the evolution of some strains of microbes that have become much harder to eliminate. This, in turn, has led to higher medical costs, prolonged hospital stays and increased mortality.

One recent study suggested this problem is killing about 3,500 people daily, with more than 1.2 million dying in 2019 as a direct result of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.

Related: Maggots to the rescue as antibiotic resistance rises

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