Eliza Depoorter

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The problem of widespread resistance against commonly used antibiotics has been a growing concern. In addition, many pathogens have an increased tolerance to antibiotics due to the formation of biofilms. High-throughput drug discovery screens of libraries of synthetic compounds have proven largely unsuccessful and recent discoveries of potent new antimicrobial compounds from bacteria indicate that we must consider new ways of exploring natural resources in search for new bioactive compounds. The working assumption is that the ‘parvome’, the treasury of small organic molecules produced by living organisms, is a virtually inexhaustible source of new bioactive compounds.

In the search for novel anti-infective compounds, it is important to consider alternative strategies, since for each antibiotic used in the clinic, resistance has been observed. One such strategy is to interfere with bacterial cell-cell communication, known as quorum sensing (QS). Several pathogens use QS to regulate biofilm formation and the expression of virulence factors, but since QS is not part of the essential metabolism, interfering with this system exerts less selective pressure, which could slow down the development of resistance. Burkholderia bacteria have largely been overlooked with regard to their potential for secondary metabolite production, yet several studies suggest that this group is an underexploited source of new anti-infective compounds.

Therefore, the present research project aims to mine the parvome of a taxonomically and biologically diverse collection of Burkholderia bacteria for compounds with antimicrobial and anti-biofilm activity and deliver a number of potentially interesting strains for development of new anti-infective therapies.