Journal article Open Access

Bioprospecting for antibacterial drugs: A multidisciplinary perspective on natural product source material, bioassay selection and avoidable pitfalls

Cushnie, T.P. Tim; Cushnie, Benjamart; Echeverría, Javier; Fowsantear, Winita; Thammawat, Sutthiwan; Dodgson, Jolyon L.A.; Law, Samantha; Clow, Simon M.

Bioprospecting is the exploration, extraction and screening of biological material and sometimes indigenous knowledge to discover and develop new drugs and other products.  Most antibiotics in current clinical use (eg. β-lactams, aminoglycosides, tetracyclines, macrolides) were discovered using this approach, and there are strong arguments to reprioritize bioprospecting over other strategies in the search for new antibacterial drugs.  Academic institutions should be well positioned to lead the early stages of these efforts given their many thousands of locations globally and because they are not constrained by the same commercial considerations as industry.  University groups can lack the full complement of knowledge and skills needed though (eg. how to tailor screening strategy to biological source material).  In this article, we review three key aspects of the bioprospecting literature (source material and in vitro antibacterial and toxicity testing) and present an integrated multidisciplinary perspective on (a) source material selection, (b) legal, taxonomic and other issues related to source material, (c) cultivation methods, (d) bioassay selection, (e) technical standards available, (f) extract/compound dissolution, (g) use of minimum inhibitory concentration and selectivity index values to identify progressible extracts and compounds, and (h) avoidable pitfalls.  The review closes with recommendations for future study design and information on subsequent steps in the bioprospecting process.

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