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Antibiotic discovery through microbial interactions

Zhang, Chengxi, Straight, Paul D
Current opinion in microbiology 2019 v.51 pp. 64-71
antibiotics, coculture, drug resistance, metabolism, metabolites, microorganisms, pathogens
Microorganisms produce biologically active natural products, some of which are useful as antibiotics and other medicines. A great demand for new antibiotics exists due to the diversity of pathogens and their mechanisms of drug resistance. Antibiotics were discovered as natural metabolites that enable a microorganism to suppress the growth of a competitor. Although the pace of discovery has slowed dramatically, new approaches to identifying antibiotics show promise for the future. Among many modern approaches to discovery, co-culturing different species and understanding the molecular bases of their interactions is opening new windows to antibiotic discovery. Here we review several examples to illustrate how co-culturing as an approach is producing new insights into the biology of specialized metabolism. Understanding the varied functions of specialized metabolites, combined with use of innovative and advanced analytical tools, indicates that studies of microbial interactions will enhance the discovery of new antibiotics and other natural products.