Mining Microbial Genomes

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Mining Microbial Genomes

How will humanity deal with the pressing need for new drugs to treat pathogens that are resistant to antibiotics? Widespread overuse has led to a decline in the efficacy of these drugs, and now many pathogens are resistant to all commonly used antibiotics. Currently, 70 percent of antibiotics are derived from microbially produced natural products, or secondary metabolites — small molecules with unique, and often medically relevant, properties. Ironically, at a time of great need, many pharmaceutical companies are scaling back or eliminating metabolite screening programs. Yet evidence suggests that a multitude of useful microbial products await discovery. A better way to exploit this potential is urgently needed.