Skip to content

Nose Snot Antibiotic

October 8, 2016


Usually we look for antibiotics in exotic places such as Antarctica, aiming to find new drugs that no human pathogen has ever seen. But what if an antibiotic could be hiding in plain sight–or nearer yet, up your nose?

That’s what Alexander Zipperer and colleagues found, at the University of Tübingen. They focused on a pathogen Staphylococcus aureus, cause of serious skin infections including drug-resistant varieties such as methicillin-resistant Staph (MRSA). But S. aureus  has a surprising ability to hang out up the nose of healthy, unsuspecting carriers–that’s about one in three of us. Look to your right, then your left: One of you three’s got it.

So what keeps some of us healthy, despite this pathogen? The German researchers proposed there might exist some other nose-loving bacterium, part of our nasal snot microbiome–some bacterium that defends us from the bad ones. To find this white-knight defender, the researchers screened a collection of previously isolated nasal bacteria, cultured on a synthetic nasal medium (i.e. standardized snot). They tested individual isolates by dropping each culture upon a lawn of the tester strain Staph aureus. One isolate Staphylococcus lugdunensis showed a clear halo, a region where the tester Staph failed to grow.

The new S. lugdunensis was shown to produce a novel antibiotic, which they named lugdunin. Lugdunin (above) is a nonribosomal peptide; like vancomycin, the antibiotic is formed by a factory-modular enzyme that generates peptide bonds. Unlike ribosomal proteins, however, the nonribosomal peptide can contain all kinds of amino acids, beyond the canonical twenty. Lugdunin actually includes a thiazolidine, a unique five-membered ring including a sulfur atom.

So we may have a new antibiotic; or even a new probiotic, in the form of S. lugdunensis to inoculate our noses.


  1. Kris Sullivan permalink
    October 9, 2016 8:46 pm

    Ew. I guess this is good in spite of the ick factor…

  2. October 9, 2016 8:53 pm

    Don’t try it at home. 🙂

  3. Robert van der Heide permalink
    October 10, 2016 12:00 am

    Mucus transplants in our future?

  4. October 10, 2016 10:01 am

    Don’t forget downregulation. If we get a pharmaceutical nasal spray or wash with this antibiotic, and people generally start using it — won’t this be a selection factor AGAINST the organism that produces it naturally?

    Antibiotic — regular longterm sales
    Probiotic — healthier population less in need of pharmaceutical products

    Which choice will look better to those able to implement it?

    And, p.s., is there a downside to handwashing? Perhaps the people who host this favorable organism should pick their noses more, and shake hands more often, for the good of the rest of us ….

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: