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J Ind Microbiol Biotechnol. 2006 Jul;33(7):496-9. Epub 2006 Mar 22.

Are antibiotics naturally antibiotics?

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Life Sciences Institute, 2350 Health Sciences Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6T 1Z3.


Antibiotics have been used for more than 50 years and are the cornerstone of infectious disease treatment; in addition, these low-molecular-weight bioactive compounds have been applied to many other therapeutic purposes. However, there is almost no information on the evolutionary biology or ecology of naturally occurring low-molecular-weight compounds. The large number of different structural types and the extremely broad range of biological activities of organic molecules produced by microbes raise many questions concerning their roles in nature. Recent evidence for the enormous complexity of microbial populations in the environment favors the notion that the principal roles of small molecules in microbial ecology are cell-cell communication and not antibiosis.

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