The war against antibiotic resistance might have a new weapon in its arsenal, and it’s manufactured by none other than horse manure! A research team led by Markus Aebi, Professor of Mycology at ETH Zurich (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich) was studying the relationship between fungus and different types of bacteria when results showed that a common inky cap mushroom called Coprinopsis cinerea destroyed some of the bacteria. Digging deeper, researchers found that it was the protein compound copsin that was exhibiting the antibiotic effect.
A New Age of Antibiotics
Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to human health and longevity. We’ve enjoyed a 70-year winning streak against infectious illness, but this streak is sure to come to an end as bacteria strains have mutated and no longer respond to antibiotics. Scientists are scrambling to replace these now defunct antibiotics with natural solutions that won’t succumb to antibiotic resistance. Copsin may be one such solution, and horse manure may hold the key.
“Horse dung is a very rich substrate that harbors a diversity of micro-organisms, including fungi and bacteria,” said Essig. “Now these micro-organisms are in a constant competition for nutrients and space and it’s therefore very likely to find potent antibiotics in such an environment, which are used by the different organisms to inhibit the growth of the competitors.”
Essig’s team cultivated C. cinerea in the laboratory alongside several strains of infectious bacteria, and the mushroom was able to eradicate several types of bacteria. Copsin, a protein, has a very unique mechanism of attack. It binds to the cell wall of the bacteria, thereby disrupting cell wall synthesis and killing the bacteria.
Researchers also say that copsin may be a viable candidate for food preservation because it kills pathogens such as listeria, a common cause of severe food poisoning. Tests have shown that copsin is extremely stable when exposed to high temperatures and an acidic environment. Of course, these studies are preliminary, but researchers are busy exploring the promising potential of copsin as an antibiotic weapon. After all, our antibiotics have only lasted 70 years…but the defense mechanisms of fungi have proven successful for millions.