Kim Lewis, University Distinguished Professor of Biology
Lewis’s pioneering work to isolate and grow previously uncultivable bacteria has led to the discovery of a new antibiotic that eliminates pathogens without encountering any detectable resistance. The finding, reported in the journal Nature, holds great promise for treating chronic infections such as tuberculosis and those caused by MRSA.
The screening of soil microorganisms has produced most antibiotics, but only 1 percent of them will grow in the lab, Lewis said. He and fellow Northeastern biology professor Slava Epstein spent years seeking to tap into a new source: uncultured bacteria, which make up 99 percent of all species in external environments.
Lewis and his team discovered the new antibiotic, teixobactin, through a novel method for growing those uncultured bacteria. In animal trials, the antibiotic easily cured severe infections without side effects. Lewis’s testing also found no resistance development by MRSA or tuberculosis bacteria.
Although human trials for teixobactin are at least two years away, the scientific community has hailed the breakthrough potential inherent in the Northeastern team’s discovery.
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