Marine bacterium yields promising new antifungal

November 19, 2020

A molecule extracted from a bacterium living inside a sea squirt acts as a potent antifungal, even against multidrug-resistant fungal pathogens such as Candida auris, according to Fan Zhang and colleagues. The researchers discovered the molecule, which they named turbinmicin, after careful genomic, metabolomic and antimicrobial screening of bacteria isolated from a variety of marine animals. New antifungal treatments are needed urgently, as nearly 2 million people worldwide die from fungal infections each year, and resistance to first-line drugs is on the rise. Multidrug-resistance Candida auris, for example, has been named by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a deadly emerging fungal threat spreading through hospitals globally. Zhang et al. now show that turbinmicin has potent antifungal activity against a diverse group of human fungal pathogens in lab samples and in infected mice, including fungi such as Candida auris and Aspergillus fumigatus that are resistant to major classes of antifungal drugs. The researchers note that turbinmicin is well-tolerated by mice at therapeutic doses. Turbinmicin appears to work through a fungal-specific pathway, by blocking vesicle trafficking, the core process by which materials are transported within a cell. The study offers an example of how researchers developing new antifungals must pursue creative approaches, "including those that harness chemical diversity in nature tuned over millions of years of evolution," Leah Cowen writes in a related Perspective.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

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