Scientists discover fungi has untapped potential to produce new antibiotics and ask for governments help to realise it

Scientists have discovered the potential for new antibiotics by locating the genes responsible for the production of various bioactive compounds, like antibiotics, in 24 different kinds of fungi.

Now they have asked for governments help to turn their discoveries into drugs that can help people.

Using fungi as a source of new antibiotics was discovered by researchers at Chalmers University of Technology who found that fungi produce many more natural and bioactive chemicals than was previously thought.

“We found that the fungi have enormous, previously untapped, potential for the production of new antibiotics and other bioactive compounds, such as cancer medicines,” said Jens Christian Nielsen, a PhD student at the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering.

Image courtesy of Jens Christian Nielsen

Having discovered their potential, the scientists are now calling on governments to support clinical trials that would help kick-start production.

When antibiotics are used, they are typically used with the short-term in mind, in contrast to the long-term therapies that help bring in revenues for pharmaceutical companies.

However, the dangers posed by antibiotic resistance, where simple infections could become lethal once again, means the need for new antibiotics is now urgent.

“Governments need to act. The pharmaceutical industry doesn’t want to spend money on new antibiotics, it’s not lucrative. This is why our governments have to step in and, for instance, support clinical studies. Their support would make it easier to reach the market, especially for smaller companies. This could fuel production,” said Christian Nielsen.

“It’s important to find new antibiotics in order to give physicians a broad palette of antibiotics, existing ones as well as new ones, to use in treatment. This will make it harder for bacteria to develop resistance.”

Image courtesy of Jens Christian Nielsen

The idea to study Fungi was inspired by the fact that the first antibiotic to be mass-produced –penicillin – was derived from Penicillium fungi.

But while previous efforts to find new antibiotics have mainly focused on bacteria, fungi remain an untapped resource.

“Fungi have been hard to study – we know very little of what they can do – but we do know that they develop bioactive substances naturally, as a way to protect themselves and survive in a competitive environment. This made it logical to apply our research tools to fungi,” said Christian Nielsen.

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Human habitat located on the Moon that will shield us from its extreme elements

Researchers have discovered a potential habitat on the Moon, which may protect astronauts from hazardous conditions on the surface.

No one has ever been on the Moon for longer than three days, largely because space suits alone can’t shield astronauts from its elements: extreme temperature variation, radiation, and meteorite impacts. Unlike Earth, the Moon also has no atmosphere or magnetic field to protects its inhabitants.

However, in a study published in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers have claimed that the safest place for astronauts to seek shelter is inside an intact lava tube.

“It’s important to know where and how big lunar lava tubes are if we’re ever going to construct a lunar base,” said Junichi Haruyama, a senior researcher at JAXA, Japan’s space agency.

Image courtesy of Purdue University/David Blair. Featured image courtesy of NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Lava tubes are naturally occurring channels formed when a lava flow develops a hard crust, which thickens and forms a roof above the still-flowing lava stream. Once the lava stops flowing, the tunnel sometimes drains, forming a hollow void.

The Lava tubes located by Purdue University researchers are said to be spacious enough to house one of the United States’ largest cities, and while their existence – and in particular their entrance near the Marius Hills Skylight – was previously known, their size was previously an unknown quantity.

“They knew about the skylight in the Marius Hills, but they didn’t have any idea how far that underground cavity might have gone,” said Jay Melosh, professor of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University.

“Our group at Purdue used the gravity data over that area to infer that the opening was part of a larger system. By using this complimentary technique of radar, they were able to figure out how deep and high the cavities are.”

At the first meeting of the US’ reintroduced National Space Council, vice president Mike Pence announced that the Trump administration will redirect America’s focus to travelling back to the Moon.

Pence’s declaration marks a fundamental change for NASA, which abandoned plans to send people to the moon in favour of Mars under President Barack Obama.

“We will return NASA astronauts to the moon – not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” Pence said.