New hope for fight against antibiotic resistance - Bacteria found in ancient Irish soil halts growth of superbugs

2 minute read

Researchers from Ireland, who have long thought that they had medicinal properties, discovered that they contained a previously unknown bacterial strain that was effective against four of the first six superplanes resistant to antibiotics, including MRSA.

According to recent research, antibiotic resistant super-bubbles can kill 1.3 million people in Europe by 2050.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines the problem as “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.”

The new bacterium was discovered by a team at Swansea University School of Medicine, consisting of researchers from Wales, Brazil, Iraq and Northern Ireland.


New bacteria: Streptomyces sp. myrophorea. Credit: G Quinn, Swansea University

The soil they analyze comes from the Fermanagh region of Northern Ireland, known as the Boho Plateau. It is an alkaline grassland area and it is known that the soil has healing properties.

The search for new antibiotics for highly resistant combat led researchers to explore new sources, including folk remedies: a field of study known as ethnopharmacology. They also focus on the environments where renowned antibiotic manufacturers such as Streptomyces can be found.

Dr. Fermanagh Boho, a former district of Boho. Gerry Quinn was aware of the healing traditions of the region.

Traditionally, it is wrapped in a small amount of soil cotton cloth and used to improve many diseases such as toothache, throat and neck infections. Interestingly, this area had been occupied by Neolithic people 4000 years ago, before the Druids before 1500 years ago.

The main findings of the study were the newly identified strain of Streptomyces:

It inhibited the growth of four of the first six highly resistant pathogens identified by WHO as responsible for health-related infections. It also inhibited both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, which were different in the structure of the cell walls; Generally, gram-negative bacteria are more resistant to antibiotics

It is not yet clear which component of the new strain prevents the growth of pathogens, but researchers are investigating it.

Professor Paul Dyson of Swansea University School of Medicine 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.”

Dr Gerry Quinn of the research team 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.”