Since the discovery of streptomycin, actinomycetes have been a useful source for new antibiotics, but there have been diminishing rates of new finds since the 1960s. The decreasing probability of identifying new active agents led to reduced interest in soil bacteria as a source for new antibiotics. At the same time, actinomycetes remain a promising reservoir for new active molecules. In this work, we present several reporter plasmids encoding visible fluorescent protein genes. These plasmids provide primary information about the action mechanism of antimicrobial agents at an early stage of screening. The reporters and the pipeline described have been optimized and designed to employ citizen scientists without specialized skills or equipment with the aim of essentially crowdsourcing the search for new antibiotic producers in the vast natural reservoir of soil bacteria. The combination of mechanism-based approaches and citizen science has proved its effectiveness in practice, revealing a significant increase in the screening rate. As a proof of concept, two new strains, Streptomyces sp. KB-1 and BV113, were found to produce the antibiotics pikromycin and chartreusin, respectively, demonstrating the efficiency of the pipeline.
- antibiotic producers screening
- citizen science
- reporter systems