Actinobacteria, such as Streptomyces, are a treasure trove for scientists as they naturally produce a host of medicinal compounds, including antibiotics, antifungals and anticancer agents. Normally found in soil, researchers have discovered that Streptomyces can be forced to secrete new and different substances, simply by changing their surroundings. For example, growing Streptomyces coelicolor in a salty environment subjects the bacteria to osmotic stress, producing a brilliant blue antibiotic that dramatically alters the appearance of the culture (pictured). Recently biologists have found that growing Streptomyces coelicolor alongside other bacteria can stimulate the production of numerous compounds that are not found when the bacterium is grown alone. Researchers hope that such techniques can be used to mine the bacteria for new treasures in the form of novel therapeutic compounds.
Written by Manisha Lalloo
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