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Vaginal microbe makes drug

A bacterium that lives in the human vagina produces an antibiotic, suggesting how the microbiome could be mined for possible drug candidates.

Michael Fischbach at the University of California, San Francisco, and his colleagues trained a computer program to recognize genes that are known to make molecules that could be used as drugs, and then asked the program to hunt for similar genes in the human microbiome.

This yielded thousands of genes, including some that make a class of antibiotics called thiopeptides. The team isolated a new thiopeptide from a vaginal microbe grown in the lab, and found that the compound could kill the same types of bacterium as other thiopeptides.

This could be the first drug discovered in and isolated from an organism living in humans, the authors say.

Cell 158, 1402–1414 (2014)

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Vaginal microbe makes drug. Nature 513, 283 (2014).

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