An antibiotic is a type of substance active against bacteria and is the most important type of antibacterial agent for fighting bacterial infections. Alexander Fleming invented the antibiotic Penicillin in the year 1928. The period from 1950 to 1960 has been called “the golden age of antibiotic discovery” as half the antibiotics we use today were discovered during that time. By the late 1960s, bacteria acquired mutations that rendered them resistant to the once-effective antibiotics.
The iChip is a device developed by Northeastern University’s Slava Epstein that could help return medical science to those glory days. The iChip permits researchers to tap into the untold number of microorganisms that won’t grow under the artificial conditions of the lab. For example, 99 percent of soil-based microorganisms won’t grow there. The iChip isolates and grows individual microorganisms in their natural soil, each in its own small chamber.
In 2015, Epstein, Lewis, and their colleagues discovered teixobactin, a new antibiotic that kills pathogens without encountering resistance. Two additional lead compounds are now in the pipeline: a promising cancer agent dubbed Novo10 and one that targets mycobacterium tuberculosis which causes TB.
The antibiotics not only kill the bacteria which harm our health but also kill the good bacteria present in our body. It may kill the bacteria or it will prevent them to replicate. The first rule of antibiotics is to try not to use them, and the second rule is to try not to use too many of them. It prevents protein synthesis, DNA replication, or cell wall breakdown prevention.
For Epstein, the iChip is just the beginning. He recently received a National Science Foundation grant to develop the first stage of a far-reaching technology platform called Gulliver that would autonomously find, sort, culture, and analyze microbial species living everywhere from the bottom of the ocean to, perhaps one day, Mars and distant moons.