Fynbos soil may provide new antibiotics

At Klipopmekaar, our rooibos is grown in Cederberg mountain fynbos soils. According to new research, bacteria-rich fynbos soil could bolster the fight against disease.

The following article appeared on News24 on 25 May 2015, and was written by Ahmed Areff:


Johannesburg – New research from Stellenbosch University says bacteria rich fynbos soil could bolster the battle against disease with its own unique antibiotics.


In his quest to discover new antibiotics, Dr Du Preez van Staden turned to fynbos to look for a group of peptide antibiotics, called lantibiotics. These have the same function as strong antibiotics that are used to treat bacterial infections.


Lantibiotics found in fynbos soil help kill bacteria

Van Staden says of the two lantibiotic-producing bacteria found in the soil, one helps to produce a new lantibiotic that works to kill disease-causing bacteria.


“Results showed that the bacteria from fynbos soils produced lantibiotics that are active against a range of bacteria,” he said.


This includes methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a type of bacteria, which is resistant to antibiotics. It can cause mild infection on the skin like sores or boils and in some cases more serious skin infections or it could infect the lungs, the bloodstream or surgical wounds. It is spread by contact.


“We also found that these lantibiotics were just as effective as a well-known commercially available product used for the treatment of skin infections and did not negatively affect wound healing,”  Van Staden said.


“The role lantibiotics may play in wound healing is currently being investigated.”


He says that apart from methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, lantibiotics also have the potential to help fight bacteria that cause abdominal infections, crusting blisters on the skin, infections of medical implants and soft tissue under the skin, gastroenteritis, infection of the back of the throat and scarlet fever.


Potential alternative to traditional antibiotics


“Lantibiotics could be an attractive alternative to traditional antibiotics/antimicrobial treatments and could also be used in conjunction with commercially available antimicrobial products for a more effective reduction in bacterial resistance.”


He said a that the newly discovered lantibiotic had a stronger stability than two other known lantibiotics.


“Commercially, this would possibly translate into a product with a longer shelf-life.”


He says his research could have a significant health impact because skin and soft tissue infections were the most common types of infections, made worse by the increase in antibiotic resistance.