Something old, something new: revisiting natural products in antibiotic drug discovery
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Antibiotic discovery is in crisis. Despite a growing need for new drugs resulting from the increasing number of multi-antibiotic-resistant pathogens, there have been only a handful of new antibiotics approved for clinical use in the past 2 decades. Faced with scientific, economic, and regulatory challenges, the pharmaceutical sector seems unable to respond to what has been called an "apocalyptic" threat. Natural products produced by bacteria and fungi are genetically encoded products of natural selection that have been the mainstay sources of the antibiotics in current clinical use. The pharmaceutical industry has largely abandoned these compounds in favor of large libraries of synthetic molecules because of difficulties in identifying new natural product antibiotics scaffolds. Advances in next-generation genome sequencing, bioinformatics, and analytical chemistry are combining to overcome barriers to natural products. Coupled with new strategies in antibiotic discovery, including inhibition of resistance, novel drug combinations, and new targets, natural products are poised for a renaissance to address what is a pressing health care crisis.
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