Microbes make thousands of metabolites. In fact, “over 200,000 different secondary metabolite structures are known,” according to Sergio Sánchez, MD, PhD,  a professor at the Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and his colleagues. Plus, these microbial metabolites can be used as drugs, especially ones that fight infection.

When it comes to making therapeutics from microbes, some work better than others. For example, Kashyap Kumar Dubey, PhD, professor at the bioprocess engineering laboratory at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, and a team of scientists reported: “Streptomyces genera serve as adaptable cell factories for secondary metabolites with various and distinctive chemical structures that are relevant to the pharmaceutical industry.” Moreover, this genus of bacteria includes more than 800 species.

Options for pharma

That abundance of species and metabolites provides many options for the pharmaceutical industry. Getting the most of these microbes, though, depends on the bioprocessing.

In fact, the productivity depends on the microbe’s morphology. “Streptomyces sp. can grow in the form of dispersed mycelia or can form a complex structure of highly interconnected mycelia called pellet,” Dubey’s team explained.  “Any product’s optimum yield might depend on the large, loose pellets.”

So, bioprocessing Streptomyces starts with growing the desired form. For example, Dubey’s group noted that controlling key physiological variables during the fermentation process and employing genomic analysis can optimize the production of secondary metabolites.

Dubey’s team pointed out that a better understanding of the molecules behind this microbe’s morphology needs more study to improve its production of secondary metabolites. Nonetheless, they concluded: “With the development of high-throughput and low-cost omics technologies, it has become possible to discover Streptomyces biosynthetic pathways and regulatory networks for secondary metabolite production.”

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