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So obviously we have a big problem with antibiotic resistance. Most of our antibiotics originate from bacteria themselves (or are synthetic variations on scaffolds which originate from bacteria). I have heard it asserted that using antibacterials derived from plants would lessen the problem.

One argument for the use of plants is that the bacteria from which we derive an antibiotic must themselves already be resistant to that antibiotic, meaning that the allele for resistance is already in the bacterial gene pool and when we exert a selection pressure by using the antibiotic, resistance will eventually appear among pathogenic species.

Another argument I have heard is that plants can provide a lot of structurally diverse metabolites from which we might discover new classes of antibacterials.

Is there anything else to this?

(I know I have answered my own question to an extent, but I am wondering whether there are any other good reasons to look to plants for the next generation of antibacterial drugs).

Thank you!

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    $\begingroup$ You're right that some antibiotics do originate from fungi e.g. penicillin, cephalosporin. But many antibiotics do come from bacteria (especially Streptomyces spp.) for example: chloramphenicol, erythromycin, kanamycin, streptomycin, tetracycline, vancomycin, gentamycin, rifampicin $\endgroup$ – DIPEA Dec 21 '15 at 20:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Nathan - If I'm not mistaken, horizontal gene transfer can result in exchange of genetic material between bacteria that are quite distantly related. I think it's possible that a Mycobacterium could acquire streptomycin resistance from Streptomyces. $\endgroup$ – DIPEA Dec 21 '15 at 23:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Nathan Here's a reference describing gene transfer between distantly related bacteria: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC284573/?page=1 $\endgroup$ – DIPEA Dec 22 '15 at 10:49
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    $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse you're probably right; I guess the search for new antibiotics has just broadened its horizons generally $\endgroup$ – DIPEA Dec 22 '15 at 10:52
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    $\begingroup$ @DartFeld it wasn't quite "And boom, penicillin". More like "And 12 years later, penicillin" $\endgroup$ – De Novo supports GoFundMonica Aug 21 '18 at 22:17
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Bacterial isolates from ancient permafrost and isolated caves allow study of the resistome, or the collection of antibacterial resistance genes, in environments without exposure to modern antibiotics for medical and agricultural use. These samples have genes for resistance to antibiotics derived from a variety of sources, including fungal sources (penicillins, cephalosporins) and synthetic dyes (sulfonamides), as well as bacterial sources (macrolides, aminoglycosides, etc). This finding was surprising, but does help explain the rapid emergence of resistance in response to clinical use. The genes have been there all along.

The OP is correct that a great deal of our current armament of antibiotics were derived from bacterial products, but since fungal and wholly synthetic products don't solve the resistance problem, I don't believe plant products will either.

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