Antimicrobial Producing Bacteria as Agents of Microbial Population Dynamics
The need for new antibiotics has been highlighted recently with the increasing pace of emergence of drug resistant pathogens (MRSA, XDR-TB, etc.). Modification of existing antibiotics with the additions of side chains or other chemical groups and genomics based drug targeting have been the preferred method of drug development at the corporate level in recent years. These approaches have yielded few viable antibiotics and natural products are once again becoming an area of interest for drug discovery.
We examined the antimicrobial "Red Soils" of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan that have historically been used to prevent infection and cure rashes by the native peoples. Antimicrobial producing bacteria were present in these soils and found to be the reason for their antibiotic activity. After isolation, these bacteria were found to excrete their antimicrobials into the liquid culture media which we could then attempt to isolate for further study. Adsorbent resins were employed to capture the antimicrobial compounds and then elute them in a more concentrated solution.
As part of a drug discovery program, we sought a way to quickly characterize other soils for potential antibiotic producing bacteria. The community level physiologic profile was examined to determine if this approach would allow for a rapid categorizing of soils based on their probability of containing antimicrobial producing microorganisms. This method proved to have a high level of variability that could not be overcome even after mixing using a commercial blender.
The role of these antimicrobial producing bacteria within their natural microbial community has largely been confined to microbe-plant interactions. The role of antimicrobial-producing microorganisms in driving the diversity of their community has not been a focus of considerable study. The potential of an antimicrobial-producing bacterium to act as a driver of diversity was examined using an artificial microbial community based in a sand microcosm. The changes in the microbial assemblage indicate that antimicrobial-producing bacteria may act in an allelopathic manner rather than in a predatory role.