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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania » Eastern Regional Research Center » Sustainable Biofuels and Co-products Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #384256

Research Project: Commercial Products from Lipids and Fibers

Location: Sustainable Biofuels and Co-products Research

Title: Microbial biosurfactants in the pharmaceutical industry

item SHAH, RAJ - Koehler Instrument Company, Inc
item Ashby, Richard - Rick
item DOUGLAS, NICHOLAS - Stony Brook University
item ARAGON, NATHAN - Stony Brook University

Submitted to: Inform
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/27/2021
Publication Date: 7/1/2021
Citation: Shah, R., Ashby, R.D., Douglas, N., Aragon, N. 2021. Microbial biosurfactants in the pharmaceutical industry. Inform. 32(7):16-20.

Interpretive Summary: The pharmaceutical industry is grappling with the ever-increasing issue of drug-resistance particularly among the disease-causing and/or potentially disease-causing bacteria, yeasts and fungi. To this end, increasing scientific efforts are focused on the discovery of new molecules that may help to overcome the antibiotic-resistant qualities present in many microbial strains. Interestingly, many microorganisms can produce molecules termed 'biosurfactants' that are composed of both a hydrophilic (water soluble) and hydrophobic (water insoluble) domain. Many of these molecules have antimicrobial qualities and can effectively act to kill or at least inhibit the growth of potentially harmful microbes. Two of the most well-known classes of microbial biosurfactants that have been shown to possess antimicrobial properties are the lipopeptides (composed of a short protein sequence attached to a fatty acid tail; i.e., surfactin, polymyxin, daptomycin etc.) and glycolipids (composed of a fatty acid attached to a sugar molecule; i.e., sophorolipids, rhamnolipids, mannosylerythritol lipids etc.). The individual members of these classes of biosurfactants possess antimicrobial properties that are individualistic towards specific strains of bacteria, yeasts and fungi. In fact, one type of lipopeptide (daptomycin) has been shown to be effective against penicillin-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Evidence has shown that the antimicrobial properties of these important molecules along with their ability to promote wound healing and effectively deliver other drugs to the site of infection has prompted their use as biobased substitutes for the pharmaceutical industry.

Technical Abstract: Antibiotic resistance is quickly becoming a problem in the healthcare industry. To this end, efforts are expanding to find new molecules to combat the growing drug-resistance issues present particularly within pathogenic or potentially pathogenic bacterial communities. Additionally, microbial biosurfactants have been proven effective as agents to promote wound healing and enhance drug delivery. These characteristics are slowly resulting in new potential applications in the pharmaceutical industry. Two of the most well-known classes of antimicrobial biosurfactants are the glycolipids (i.e., sophorolipids, rhamnolipids, mannosylerythritol lipids etc) and lipopeptides (i.e., surfactin, polymyxin, daptomycin etc). Individual members of these biosurfactant classes have demonstrated antimicrobial activity towards specific classes of bacteria, fungi and yeasts. In fact, it has been experimentally proven that the lipopeptide daptomycin is an effective agent against penicillin-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, two of the most problematic drug-resistant strains currently known. In addition, the glycolipid biosurfactants have generally proven effective against many Gram+ bacterial strains. This article describes the current state of pharmaceutical applications of glycolipid and lipopeptide biosurfactants and details some specific studies on the utilization of microbial biosurfactants for antimicrobial, immuno-modulating and anti-inflammatory applications specifically among the lipopeptide and glycolipid classes of biosurfactants.