Scientists have developed a more efficient way to search for potential antibiotics living in the soil.
The new method, called metagenomic sequencing, allows scientists to sequence the genomes of multiple microbes living in a small soil sample.
Scientists can use the survey method to identify gene sequences related to the production of molecules with antibiotic or antifungal qualities — defense mechanisms evolved by microbes that could also help humans battle infections.
Many studies show problematic bacteria, including MRSA, E. coli and others, are becoming increasingly resistant to common antibiotics.
To test the new genome sequencing method, scientists collected 60 10-gram samples of dirt from a few inches beneath the surface of a Northern California meadow. Researchers used metagenomic sequencing to identify the genomes of 1,000 different microbes, 360 of which were found to be new species.