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Bacteria Discovered In Irish Soil Kills Four Drug-Resistant Superbugs

NBC News reports on how microbiologist Gerry Quinn “followed up on some folklore his family had passed on to him.”
Old timers insisted that the dirt in the vicinity of a nearly 1,500-year-old church in County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, an area once occupied by the Druids, had almost miraculous curative powers…. “Here in the western fringes of Ireland there is still a tradition of having this folk cure,” Quinn told NBC News. “We can look at it and see maybe it’s just superstition — or we can actually investigate and ask, ‘is there anything in the soil that produces antibiotics…?'”

Once Quinn and his team decided to focus on the Irish soil, they narrowed their search to a specific type of bacteria, called Streptomyces, because other strains of this bacteria have led to the development of 75 percent of existing antibiotics, Quinn said. The bacteria was discovered by a team based at Swansea University Medical School, made up of researchers from Wales, Brazil, Iraq and Northern Ireland. The researchers first tried the newly discovered strain of Streptomyces on some garden variety bacteria. In their petri dish experiment, “it knocked them out,” Quinn said. “Then we thought we’d take it one step further and find some multi-resistant organisms.”
The bacteria in the experiment killed four out of the top six organisms that are resistant to antibiotics, including MRSA. “It’s quite surprising,” said Quinn… “The lesson is, some of the cures are right underneath your feet.”

Vaughn Cooper, an evolutionary geneticist/microbiologist at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine, tells NBC that more research is needed before this yields a super-antibiotic — but “it’s a cool discovery.”
The World Health Organization has named antibiotic resistance as one of 2019’s ten top public health threats.


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