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From the Opossum on the Side of the Road

University of Oklahoma researchers are swabbing roadkill to collect microbiome samples in the hopes of uncovering new molecules, including ones that might represent new drugs, Chemistry World reports.

As a number of other researchers are studying the human microbiome, Oklahoma's Robert Cichewicz tells Chemistry World that he and his colleagues instead wanted to focus on other mammalian microbiomes. And relying on sampling roadkill got them around issues of live animal testing. So far, they've collected samples from armadillos, deer, raccoons, squirrels, and more to isolate 4,000 different bacteria.

Some of these samples have yielded potential natural products. Cichewicz and his colleagues report in the Journal of Natural Products that samples from an ear of an opossum yielded two bacteria isolates that produce known and novel cyclic lipodepsipeptides. These products could inhibit the formation of biofilms by Candida albicans, a human pathogen, they add.

"We really feel that finding new and novel drug candidates is such a critical need for society that these somewhat extreme measures are well worth a little queasiness, a second shower, or periodic attacks of the shivers," Cichewicz tells Chemistry World. "All in the name of science."