US scientists have made a breakthrough in bacterium culture that could help to discover new types of antibiotics. Most antibiotics were discoverd in the 1950s and 1960s and no new classes have become available since the late 1980s.
Many bacteria are becoming ever more resistant to existing products and some are almost untreatable.
Since most antibiotics were found in microbes in soil, this is where the scientists turned to look again. One of the problems is that only about 1% of microbes in the soil can be grown in the laboratory. But the researches have developed a new way of culturing them in separate pods in the soil, and can now grow many more types - almost half in fact.
The microbes produce chemicals which are tested for their antibacterial properties, and so far 25 new antibiotics have been discovered. Of course its a long way from here to a commercially viable antbiotic, but it gives scientists a whole host of new chemicals to start refining.