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article imageNew antibiotic found in horse dung fungus

By Tim Sandle     Nov 17, 2014 in Science
Researchers have isolated a new substance from a fungus that kills bacteria. The substance, known as copsin, has the same effect as traditional antibiotics. The substance was found in the common inky cap mushroom that grows on horse dung.
The isolated substance, copsin, is a type of protein, whereas traditional antibiotics are often non-protein organic compounds. The substance was found and characterized by scientists based at ETH Zurich and the University of Bonn. The chemical is derived from the Coprinopsis cinerea mushroom (although it is also likely to be present in many other fungi.) The mushroom is commonly known as the gray shag.
On discovering the substance, the science group began to consider how the fungus and various bacteria affect each other's growth. To see this, the fungus was grown in a laboratory alongside various bacteria. It was found that C. cinerea is able to kill many types of bacteria. Further study revealed that the copsin produced by the mushroom was responsible for this antibiotic effect.
Copsin falls within a group of chemicals called defensins. These proteins produced are produced by lots of many organisms to combat microorganisms that cause disease. Copsin is an exceptionally stable protein. Copsin seems to work by binding to lipid II, an essential building block for the cell wall of bacteria.
What fascinates scientists is how fungi have been using cospin for thousands of years to prevent bacterial infections without the bacteria becoming resistant (whereas, in contrast, humans have only been able to use antibiotics for around seventy years before resistance became widespread.)
Although the results are of interest, whether copsin will one day be used as an antibiotic in medicine remains to be seen. It has yet to be determined if antibiotic medicine for humans and other animals can be developed from this protein.
The findings have been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, in a paper headed "Copsin, a novel peptide-based fungal antibiotic interfering with the peptidoglycan synthesis."
More about Antibiotic, Fungus, horse dung, Poop
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