Drugs from nature: ethnobotany as a strategy for antimicrobial drug discovery

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Plant natural products represent a largely untapped resource for discovering bioactive compounds to fill the antimicrobial drug development pipeline. 

With approximately 2.9 million antibiotic-resistant infections resulting in more than 35,000 deaths in the United States each year [1], there is an urgent need to fill our dwindling antibiotic pipeline with new chemical scaffolds for optimization and clinical assessment. In the search for new antibiotics, screens of synthetic chemical libraries have ultimately failed, revealing the critical importance of exploring the biologically relevant chemical space [2]. This is where plant natural products can play a pivotal role. Many of our most essential medicines for infection, pain and cancer were initially discovered in plants [3]. While roughly 9% of the estimated 374,000 plant species on Earth have been used as medicines [4] and billions of people rely on plants for their primary pharmacopeia [5], the vast majority of these 33,000 medicinal species have never been evaluated for their full pharmacological potential.

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