Natural products made by organisms such as soil-dwelling bacteria may be the key to breakthroughs in drug design.

Researchers from the Scripps Research Institute have found that bacteria-derived molecules called thiocarboxylic acids could be useful as ingredients for the next generation of antibiotics.

“We use natural products as an inspiration for chemistry, biology and drug discovery,” Ben Shen, PhD, professor and co-chair of the Department of Chemistry at Scripps Research, said in a statement.

Thiocarboxylic acids are similar to lab-made molecules called carboxylic acids. Scientists labeled carboxylic acids as good “warheads” because they can hone in on biological targets. This unique ability makes them a candidate for many antibiotics and medications.

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