Written by Eashan Kosha
Antibiotic resistance has been deemed an increasingly significant issue by medical professionals over the past decade. Alexander Fleming's first development of antibiotics through his discovery of penicillin in 1928 was yielded as a vast improvement in patient care . As a result, bacterial diseases were neutralized as a threat to public safety due to the wonder drug . Many new antibiotics have been developed since, yet WHO (World Health Organization) and many other researchers consider antibiotic resistance a major health crisis on a global scale [2,3].
Excessive prescription of these "wonder drugs" has resulted in antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. These strains don't respond to existing antibiotics and may run rampant among global populations . Synthesizing new classes of antibiotics is difficult as evidenced by the time and resources it requires. The variants of antibiotics had been fixed for nearly 30 years before finally, a breakthrough resulted in the discovery of a novel antibiotic in 2016 . A group of researchers at Northeastern University were able to use an electronic chip to “grow” specific microbes in the soil and separate it into its antibiotic components .
Another recent development in the field is promising, however. A group of scientists led by Andrea Stierle from the University of Montana discovered that when two different types of fungi were grown together, they combined to create a unique antibiotic, which is special as neither of the fungi could produce it on its own. The fungi, called P. fuscum and P. camembertii/clavigerum, are extremophiles (organisms that thrive in extreme conditions) that the Stierle group collected from the Berkeley Pit Lake, which is acidic and metal-rich. The organisms were developed separately and also in co-cultures containing both groups. After the process was completed, metabolites were removed and identified. The group saw that a unique set of particles were present in the bacterial medium containing the two fungal groups that weren't found in the individual fungal lines that were separate. It's not yet clear how these coordinate to create Berkeleylactone A, a potent antibiotic. It’s possible that one of the species makes everything relevant to the antibiotic without the other, but requires a sort of trigger from the second fungus. Another theory is that one fungus secretes a particle which is then modified by the other.
Even if there is no immediate benefit–the antibiotic discovered by the Stierle group may require years to become fully developed–the fact that we can culture naturally occurring antibiotics through another means is exciting. Above all, while education regarding antibiotic resistance is critical to sustaining the longevity of existing antibiotics, it is equally imperative to keep developing new ones [1,3].
 Davies, J., Dorothy D. 2010. Origins and Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance. Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews : MMBR. 74: 417-433.
 O'Neil, L.J., Lee, R. 2016. The Global Threat of Antimicrobial Resistance. Trend Magazine.
 Ventola, C.L. 2015. The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis: Part 1: Causes and Threats. Pharmacy and Therapeutics. 40: 277-283.
 Knapton, S. 2016. First New Antibiotic in 30 Years Discovered in Major Breakthrough. The Telegraph.
 Lewis, K., Strandwitz, P. 2013. Microbiology: Antibiotics Right Under Our Nose. Nature. 535: 501-502.
 Berezow, A. 2017. Two Fungal Species Cooperate to Synthesize an Antibiotic. American Council on Science and Health.