Nova Scotia fungus breathes life into fight against superbugs

McMaster grad student Andrew King with fungal sample. PHOTO: MCMASTER UNIVERSITY/HO.

McMaster grad student Andrew King with fungal sample. PHOTO: MCMASTER UNIVERSITY/HO.

Published: June 25, 2014

A lowly soil fungus from Nova Scotia has provided scientists with a powerful new weapon against some of the most alarming microbes on the planet.

A molecule, which a team at McMaster University plucked from the fungus, is enabling them to kill “superbugs” resistant to antibiotics.

The molecule, aspergillomarasmine A or AMA, latches on to a protein inside the bacteria and “rips out” zinc rendering the superbugs defenceless against powerful antibiotics it could previously resist, says microbiologist Gerry Wright, who heads the team in Hamilton, Ont.

Once they uncovered AMA, the researchers teamed up with a British microbiologist and showed the fungal extract had the same effect on more than 200 superbugs that have been causing misery around the world.

Then to underscore AMA’s promise, the researchers showed that by using the fungal compound in combination with an antibiotic protected lab mice infected with an otherwise lethal strain of resistant pneumonia.

Scientists says the findings, to be reported Thursday in the Journal Nature, offer hope in the battle against resistant bacteria causing growing international alarm. Continue reading


‘Arsenic life’ debunked by UBC microbiologist

UBC Microbiologist Rosie Redfield helped debunk arsenic life study.
Published: July 9, 2012
By Margaret Munro
Two of the biggest players in the research world — NASA and the journal Science — were wrong when they told the world that microbes scooped from a California lake had rewritten the rules of life.

In what is being described as a case of “serial failure,” they took shoddy research, and overhyped it.

“It was a cascade of human failures,” says Rosie Redfield of the University of British Columbia, who heads one of two research teams who disproved the original claims in new research published this week. Continue reading