Antibiotics are critical for the treatment of infectious diseases in humans and are often used agriculturally to control the spread of disease among livestock and crops. Antibiotic production can be grouped into three methods: natural fermentation, semi-synthetic, and synthetic. Semi-synthetic production of antibiotics is a combination of natural fermentation and laboratory work to maximize the antibiotic. Antibiotics are produced industrially by fermentation process, where the source microorganism is grown in large fermenters containing a liquid growth medium. Membrane filtration is also used in the production of antibiotics.
Selection and further reproduction of the higher yielding strains over many generations can raise yields largely. Another technique used to increase yields is gene amplification, where copies of genes coding for enzymes involved in the antibiotic production can be inserted back into a cell, via vectors such as plasmids. This process must be closely linked with retesting of antibiotic production and effectiveness. Microorganisms used in fermentation are rarely identical to their counterparts in the wild. This is because species are often genetically modified to yield the maximum amounts of antibiotics. Mutation is often used and is encouraged by CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing approaches.
Microbial production of antibiotics by secondary metabolism is one of the key areas in the field of applied microbiology. Because the production of antibiotics is non-growth associated, using cell immobilization to uncouple cell growth and metabolite production is an effective method of improving the process. Different immobilization techniques have been tried for antibiotics production.
Oxygen concentration, temperature, pH, and nutrient levels must be optimal and are closely monitored and adjusted if necessary. As antibiotics are secondary metabolites, the population size must be controlled very carefully to ensure that maximum yield is obtained before the cells die. Once the process is complete, the antibiotic must be extracted and purified to a crystalline product. This is simpler to achieve if the antibiotic is soluble in organic solvent. Otherwise it must first be removed by ion exchange, adsorption, or chemical precipitation.
With the emergence and spread of multi-drug resistance, new antibiotics are desperately needed. Get your therapeutic development research started with strains known to produce antibiotics, including Penicllium, Streptomyces, and Acremonium species.
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