How Scientists Are “Mining” Antibiotics From Wildlife

How Scientists Are “Mining” Antibiotics From Wildlife

How Scientists Are “Mining” AntibioticsFrom Wildlife

Modern science is allowing researchers to go “mining” for new antibiotics using an ultrahigh-throughput (uHT) microfluidic droplet platform. This platform gives researchers the ability to learn which microbes are in the microbiome of wildlife and test them for antibiotics. The uHT platform is a great tool for finding bacteria capable of making life saving antibiotics! The function of bacteria in the microbiome of animals, and humans, is hard to determine. This is because there are a diverse range of activity within the microbiome at all times. The uHT platform helps single out bacteria using oil droplets, allowing each species of bacteria to be tested.  

Study: Ultrahigh-throughput functional profiling of microbiota communities

Fig 1. Ultrahigh-throughput functional profiling of microbiota communities. (1)

A new study, published in the journal PNAS on September 4, 2018, looked at microbiome profiling using the uHT platform to screen for antimicrobial activity. Scientists used the uHT platform to profile and test the antimicrobial activity of bacteria found within the microbiome of an East Siberian brown bear. (1) The scientists found “killer” strains of Bacillus with antimicrobial properties against S.Aureus. S.Aureus is a bacteria that excretes toxins causing harmful skin infections, bone infections, joint infections, bloodstream infections, and food poisoning. (2)

Why discovering new antibiotics matters

As we use antibiotics to treat illness, bacteria begin developing resistance to antibiotics, creating an arms race between medicine and bacteria. Science needs to keep discovering new antibiotics to win the arms race and keep medicine one step ahead of bacteria. To learn more about drug resistant bacteria and the medical crisis it is causing, read this article “Drug-Resistant Bacteria: On the Edge of a Crisis” published by the National Institutes of Health. It’s crucial we pursue the discovery of new and effective antibiotics. By using the uHT platform science can discover unique antibiotics within microbiomes of wildlife, and work towards discovering the antibiotic medicines of the future. For more on the microbial resistance read our article “Why You Catch A Cold And Your Partner Doesn’t“. 


  1. Terekhov, S. S., Smirnov, I. V., Malakhova, M. V., Samoilov, A. E., Manolov, A. I., Nazarov, A. S., … & Kostryukova, E. S. (2018). Ultrahigh-throughput functional profiling of microbiota communities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201811250.