A deep dive into the genomes of penicillin fungi reveals a trove of potential drugs

From Cosmos Magazine, April 4, 2017 (Image: AJC1 via Flickr)

Penicillium AJC1

A treasure trove of medicinal compounds could still be lurking within the fungi that revolutionised modern medicine through the use of antibiotics, according to a new study published in Nature Microbiology.

Penicillin, derived from the Penicillium fungi, became the first mass-produced antibiotic in the 1940s. Antibiotics have since saved millions of lives, but their efficacy against bacterial infections is waning, due to rampant overuse leading to potentially catastrophic antimicrobial resistance. Some estimates predict 10 million human fatalities a year by 2050 due to antibiotic ineffectiveness.

Yet the answer to this nightmare scenario may well lie in re-mining the veins of the Penicillium fungi, which bio-prospectors hunting for the next pharmaceutical blockbuster have to date largely overlooked despite it also being the source of other useful drugs including cholesterol-lowering statins. Read more…