A Healing Bit of the Old Sod—Ancient Irish Soil Long Reputed to Have Healing Powers Found to Contain Bacterium Strain Effective Against Multiple Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs; “Answer to Very Modern Problem May Lie in Wisdom of the Past”

Researchers analyzing soil from Ireland long thought to have medicinal properties have discovered that it contains a previously unknown strain of bacteria which is effective against four of the top six superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Antibiotic-resistant superbugs could kill up to 1.3 million people in Europe by 2050, according to recent research. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes the problem as "one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.” The new strain of bacteria was discovered by a team based at Swansea University Medical School in Wales, and made up of researchers from Wales, Brazil, Iraq, and Northern Ireland. They have named the new strain Streptomyces sp. myrophorea. The soil they analyzed originated from an area of County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, which is known as the Boho Highlands (photo shows limestone grassland in foreground of the Boho Highlands). It is an area of alkaline grassland (S. myrophorea can grow at pH’s as high as 10.5 and is highly resistant to intense gamma radiation) and the soil is reputed to have healing properties. The search for replacement antibiotics to combat multi-resistance has prompted researchers to explore new sources, including folk medicines: a field of study known as ethnopharmacology. They are also focusing on environments where well-known antibiotic producers like Streptomyces can be found. One of the research team, Dr. Gerry Quinn, a previous resident of Boho, County Fermanagh, had been aware of the healing traditions of the area for many years. Traditionally, a small amount of soil was wrapped up in cotton cloth and used to heal many ailments including toothache, and throat and neck infections.
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