Microbial Drugs

The majority of the medically important antibiotic drugs are derived from secondary metabolites, which are produced by bacteria and filamentous fungi. Despite intensive world-wide efforts using alternative approaches, no other concept could so far surpass the historically successful strategy to exploit biologically active natural products as candidates for anti-infective drugs. The recently observed, increasing resistance of the human pathogens against antibiotics has prompted us to intensify our search for novel lead structures from microorganisms and fungi, which can be used as anti-infective drugs.

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Expeditions

Our expedition into a hitherto untapped Kenyan rainforest to search for novel fungal producers of anti-infective agents

The KenyanArabuko Sokoke National Parkis one of the few undisturbed primary forests, situated at the coast of the Indian Ocean in Eastern Africa. Even though the animals and plants of this area have already been studied intensively, virtually nothing is known about the Mycobiota (Fungi) of this area.

In the course of our collaboration withEgerton University, we have conducted a foray in this forest in order to collect mushrooms and other macrofungi. We cultured them on-site to make them available for studies on both, their taxonomy and their potential to produce novel antibiotics and other potentially beneficial secondary metabolites. 

In May 2022, a week of intensive fieldwork has yielded over 150 specimens of macrofungi, many of which were cultured from spores or the fruitbody tissue. The mycelial cultures are now in the process of being purified, and students from Kenya and other countries who are currently working at the HZI are involved in the studies of these organisms. Since we have been rather successful in the past years with respect to the discovery of new bioactive natural products from other Kenyan basidiomycetes, chances are good that this project will result in many additional valuable findings. In any case, the project heavily contributes to the training of young researchers from Africa and other parts of the world.

This project would have been impossible without funding by the Alexander-von-Humboldt-Foundation and the H2020-MSCA-RISE project Mycobiomics.

Story: New drugs from fungi

HZI researchers traveled to Yaoundé, Cameroon, for a workshop on the collection, culture and identification of fungal strains. A new research hub will strengthen natural product research in fungi in the country. [read more]

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Video

  • How do researchers at the HZI and HIPS develop antibiotic candidates from natural products?

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