About secondary metabolites
In 1928, Alexander Flemming discovered that a microorganism produced a bactericidal substance, penicillin. This and similar compounds are called secondary metabolites because they are not believed to be essential for the growth of the organism. Many microorganisms can produce antibiotics, and 60% of the antibiotics we use in medical treatment are of microbial origin. Analyzes of the microbial genomes show that there is still a huge untapped potential. This is good news for treating bacterial infections. We have assumed that microorganisms use antibiotics in their mutual competition, a kind of "weapons of mass destruction", but we do not know if this is actually the natural function. By understanding the (many) functions that secondary metabolites (with antibiotic activity) have in microbial communities, we can both become wiser about how nature works, but also lay out new and better strategies for finding new antibiotics.