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Mold that led to the discovery of reanimated penicillin to fight superbugs

A mold sample that first led to the discovery of penicillin in the 1920s has been brought back to life. The newly awakened mushroom could provide tips on how to defeat drug-resistant superbugs, CNN reported it.

Dr Alexander Fleming, professor of bacteriology in London, accidentally discovered the antibiotic penicillin in 1928, when some of his petri dishes were contaminated with a mold, Penicillium notatum, Live Science previously reported. He extracted the active ingredient “penicillin” from mold and found that it killed many types of pests bacteria; the scientists subsequently purified penicillin for use as a treatment for bacterial infections.

After the fortuitous discovery of penicillin, its mother mold was frozen and stored for future study. Scientists have occasionally thawed and mold regrown from the original stump, according to CNN, but never before have researchers analyzed all the DNA contained within the mushroom.

Until now.

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“We realized, to our surprise, that no one had sequenced the genome of this original Penicilliumdespite its historical significance for the field, “Tim Barraclough, professor in the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London and the Department of Zoology at Oxford University, told CNN. Sept. 24 in the journal Scientific reports.

The team compared Fleming̵

7;s original mold with two modern strains of Penicillium used to make antibiotics in the United States, CNN reported. They zoomed in on the genes that enable the mushroom produce penicillin; some of these genes contain instructions for building the enzymes that produce penicillin, while others control the function and total amount of these enzymes. The differences between historical and modern mold strains could reveal how Penicillium has evolved over time and whether the resulting drug could be improved, the researchers say.

Since the release of penicillin, bacterial resistance to the drug has flourished and the number of drug-resistant insects can grow as long as the drug is used, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Identifying subtle differences in the mold strains used to make penicillin, Barraclough told CNN that his team hopes to find new ways to “improve our use or design of antibiotics to fight bacteria.”

Read the full story on CNN.

Originally published in Live Science.

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