The search for new antibiotics

The search for new antibiotics

Only recently, the NDR reported that almost all major pharmaceutical companies have stopped or have stopped research into antibiotics. This is a problem because the increasing resistance to antibiotics calls for new, effective antibiotics.

The development of new antibiotics is a long process for researchers and companies. This process can fail at any time, for example if it turns out that the substance is toxic to human cells. However, the costs of medication development also play a decisive role. Development up to approval can cost several million euros. Yet the proceeds from medicines, e.g. for cancer or chronic diseases, are higher than those from antibiotics. This is one reason why hardly any new antibiotics come onto the market.

The difficult search for new antibiotics is also the subject of a current article by Deutschlandfunk Kultur. In this detailed article, the biologist Prof. Tanja Schneider of the University of Bonn, explains the complex process required to develop an effective antibiotic. The success rate is low because a substance that is found is also approved as a medication.

However, the first step is to find active substances. This is the real challenge in the search for new substances. The majority of antibiotic substances originate from soil organisms. These organisms produce different active substances in order to assert themselves against each other in the battle for nutrients in the soil. Antibiotic substances serve the organisms as weapons to compete against each other.

In the search for effective substances, researchers often come across substances that are already known. In order to find new active substances, researchers are also increasingly looking for them in more unusual places on earth, e.g. in healing earths or the earth of mangrove forests. Scientists search in places where no researcher has searched before. Always hoping to find new substances around undiscovered ones.

Prof. Tanja Schneider and her team were able to achieve success in the search for new active substances. Teixobactin was discovered, an active substance that has not yet produced any resistance in previous research. Whether teixobactin is really suitable as a pharmaceutical is currently being tested in the USA.


Deutschlandfunk Kultur (2019): Wie Forscher neue Antibiotika aufspüren.

NDR (2019): Tödliche Gefahr: Das Ende von Antibiotika?,antibiotika576.html

Ling et al. (2015): A new antibiotic kills pathogens without detectable resistance. Nature, Volume 517: 455–459.