Scientists discover bacteria in Irish soil that halts growth of superbugs

Lab workers

Scientists have discovered that soil found in Ireland contains a strain of bacteria that is effective against four of the top six superbugs.

These superbugs, including MRSA are resistant to antibiotics and could potentially kill up to 1.3 million people across Europe by 2050, according to recent research.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) say the problem is ‘one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.’

Now, a team of researchers from Swansea University Medical School have analysed soil from the Boho Highlands in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

They discovered a new strain of bacteria which they have named ‘Streptomyces sp. myrophorea’.

The team were hoping to find replacement antibiotics that the superbugs may not have developed a resistance towards.

They looked into folk medicines as well as environments known for antibiotic producers like Streptomyces.

Boho Highlands is an area of alkaline grassland where the soil is reputed to have medicinal properties.

Dr Gerry Quinn, who was part of the research team used to live in the area and was aware of the reputation of the soil.

The area was occupied by Druids 1500 years ago, and Neolithic people 4000 years ago. To this day, people in the area have been known to wrap soil in a cotton cloth to in an effort to treat or sooth ailments including toothache, throat and neck infections.

Dr Quinn said: “The discovery of antimicrobial substances from Streptomyces sp.myrophorea will help in our search for new drugs to treat multi-resistant bacteria, the cause of many dangerous and lethal infections.

“We will now concentrate on the purification and identification of these antibiotics. We have also discovered additional antibacterial organisms from the same soil cure which may cover a broader spectrum of multi-resistant pathogens.”

Professor Paul Dyson of Swansea University Medical School said: “This new strain of bacteria is effective against 4 of the top 6 pathogens that are resistant to antibiotics, including MRSA. Our discovery is an important step forward in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

“Our results show that folklore and traditional medicines are worth investigating in the search for new antibiotics. Scientists, historians and archaeologists can all have something to contribute to this task. It seems that part of the answer to this very modern problem might lie in the wisdom of the past.”

The team found that the Streptomyces from the Boho highlands inhibited the growth of four of the top six multi-resistant pathogens (Vancomycin resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Klebsiella pneumonia, and Carbenepenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumanii)

The team are now investigating various components of the new strain in order to discover which prevents the growth of pathogens.

It is not yet clear which component of the new strain prevents the growth of the pathogens, but the team are already investigating this.

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