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Mushroom found to contain powerful antibiotic

Scientists at the Danish biotechnology company have now isolated a compound from a class of small black mushroom found in the woods of northern Europe. The newly discovered compound has been derived from a class of fungi called Pseudoplectania// nigrella and is believed to be as effective as penicillin.

Plectasin, a peptide derived from the fungus, is found to be as effective as penicillin and vancomycin in combating experimental peritonitis and pneumonia in mice. The peptide is one of a class of molecules called defensins, which have previously been found in plants and animals.

Plectasin was tested against a range of bacteria, including streptococcus, enterococcus and staphylococcus. Since about 200,000 other species of fungus exist, it seems likely that many more fungal defensins will be found, possibly allowing for highly targeted antimicrobial drugs that will render today's broad spectrum drugs obsolete.

The compound showed no evidence of toxicity and is excreted without change, which is an encouraging finding. However, further studies will be needed to see if it is safe to use in humans. It is very likely, however, that the efficacy seen in mice will translate to human beings as well.

The discovery of the compound could not have taken place using conventional techniques, in which the fungi would be grown in liquid cultures and then tested to see if they had any antimicrobial activity.

Source: Indo-Asian News Service

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