Scientists at Northeastern University have taken a major step towards being able to grow previously uncultivable bacteria in the lab, the potential key to developing a new generation of highly effective antibiotics.

Examining bacterial communities enveloping particles of sand, the Northeastern researchers identified chemicals — called siderophores — produced by cultivable bacteria that act as growth factors for distantly related strains of uncultivable bacteria. When the two types of bacteria were placed in close proximity in a Petri dish, the uncultivable bacterium grew.

The finding, the cover story in the March 26 issue of the journal Chemistry & Biology, “opens a new chapter in the century-old quest to access a major source of biodiversity on the planet,” says Kim Lewis, professor of Biology who led the research.

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Source: Northeastern University