Tobacco Flower Antibiotic to Inhibit Superbugs

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Researchers isolated novel peptide from tobacco flower, which can be used as antibiotic for treatment of various diseases

Increasing prevalence of several infectious diseases worldwide is propelling demand for development of novel efficient antibiotics. However, overuse and over prescription of drugs have reduced their efficiency. Previous study by various organizations have reported presence of new antibiotic candidates in rattlesnake venom, platypus milk, berries, honey, maple syrup, human breast milk, fungi, and frog skin. New study carried out by La Trobe researchers reported presence of antibiotic compound in flowers of ornamental plant Nicotiana alata also known as tobacco. Tobacco plants prevents infection by producing anti-fungal molecules peptide known as NaD1 from the flowers. The aim of the study was to examine peptide as an antimicrobial agent for human use. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications in May 2018.

As result of study, the peptide was found to be effective against a type of microorganism that most antibiotics can’t kill – Candida albicans. This common species of yeast is often found in the human gut and mouth. Although, it is not toxic, it can pose a threat to people suffering from compromised immune systems. “Infectious diseases are a major global health problem, accounting for more than one in eight deaths and mortality rates are predicted to skyrocket over the next 30 years,” said Mark Hulett, an author of a study describing the new find. “Antibiotic resistance at the current rate will eventually lead to the exhaustion of effective long-term drug options. It’s imperative we develop new antibiotic treatments.”

Furthermore, as a part of experiments involving the Australian Synchrotron, it was found that NaD1 destroyed the fungus in an effectively by puncturing the outer cell walls and ripping them open. “They act in a different way to existing antibiotics and allow us to explore new ways of fighting infections,” says Hulett. “It’s an exciting discovery that could be harnessed to develop a new class of life-saving antimicrobial therapy to treat a range of infectious diseases, including multi-drug-resistant golden staph, and viral infections such as HIV, Zika virus, Dengue and Murray River Encephalitis.”

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