A new way of discovering antibiotics makes use of an unusual source of complex microbial communities
Roisin McGuigan |
A team of scientists has developed a screening technology for antibiotics using microbes from a curious source: saliva taken from an East Siberian brown bear.
Why would anyone want to collect bear drool? Co-author Konstantin Severinov explains that diversity is the key: “Bears have a diverse diet, so we assumed that their microbiome will also be diverse. They also have lots of drool!” The challenge, of course, was to catch one. They used a trained hunting husky to lure a bear into a cage; once inside it was offered a stick covered with absorbent canvas, which it duly bit, says Severinov. “There was plenty of saliva to pack into test tubes once it let go!” After this rather undignified treatment, the bear was given a consolation prize of honey and released.
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- SS Terekhov et al., “Ultrahigh-throughput functional profiling of microbiota communities”, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 115, 9551–9556 (2018). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1811250115.