Medical

Ancient Irish folk medicine may help fight the world's deadliest bacteria

The newly-discovered bacteria strain Streptomyces sp. myrophorea, which has been found to produce potent antibiotics
The newly-discovered bacteria strain Streptomyces sp. myrophorea, which has been found to produce potent antibiotics
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The newly-discovered bacteria strain Streptomyces sp. myrophorea, which has been found to produce potent antibiotics
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The newly-discovered bacteria strain Streptomyces sp. myrophorea, which has been found to produce potent antibiotics

For the past century or so, we've been able to kill bacteria with relative ease, thanks to antibiotics. But the bugs are adapting to them, leading scientists into an arms race to keep us from being plunged back into the "dark ages of medicine." But it turns out, looking to the past might help our future – a team of researchers from Swansea University Medical School has discovered a new potential superbug killer in Irish soil, which has long been believed to have healing properties.

According to local lore, the soil in the Boho Highlands in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, could help cure what ails ya. Thousands of years ago, the soil was used to treat things like toothache and infections. These kinds of folk medicines might not get much attention in the scientific community nowadays, but with the looming threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, more researchers are investigating whether the old stories have any truth to them.

The Swansea team tested soil from the Boho Highlands area, looking for signs of the presence of Streptomyces bacteria, which are well known for producing antibiotics. And find them they did, including a brand new strain of the bug that has now been named Streptomyces sp. myrophorea.

This new strain was found to be effective at killing several pathogens on the World Health Organization's priority list. This includes carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii, which is listed as critically threatening; Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), both of which are of high priority on the list; and Klebsiella pneumonia. Interestingly, this new Streptomyces strain was found to inhibit both gram positive and gram negative bacteria, with the latter generally being trickier to kill.

"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," says Gerry Quinn. "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."

The superbug problem may be alarming, with news that even our last resort antibiotics are beginning to fail, but there is hope. This Irish highlands soil joins a growing list of strange places that potential treatments have been found in recent years, with others including platypus milk, tobacco flowers, rattlesnake venom, human breast milk, honey, maple syrup, and frog skin.

The research was published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.

Source: Swansea University via Science Daily

For the past century or so, we've been able to kill bacteria with relative ease, thanks to antibiotics. But the bugs are adapting to them, leading scientists into an arms race to keep us from being plunged back into the "dark ages of medicine." But it turns out, looking to the past might help our future – a team of researchers from Swansea University Medical School has discovered a new potential superbug killer in Irish soil, which has long been believed to have healing properties.

According to local lore, the soil in the Boho Highlands in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, could help cure what ails ya. Thousands of years ago, the soil was used to treat things like toothache and infections. These kinds of folk medicines might not get much attention in the scientific community nowadays, but with the looming threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, more researchers are investigating whether the old stories have any truth to them.

The Swansea team tested soil from the Boho Highlands area, looking for signs of the presence of Streptomyces bacteria, which are well known for producing antibiotics. And find them they did, including a brand new strain of the bug that has now been named Streptomyces sp. myrophorea.

This new strain was found to be effective at killing several pathogens on the World Health Organization's priority list. This includes carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii, which is listed as critically threatening; Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), both of which are of high priority on the list; and Klebsiella pneumonia. Interestingly, this new Streptomyces strain was found to inhibit both gram positive and gram negative bacteria, with the latter generally being trickier to kill.

"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," says Gerry Quinn. "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."

The superbug problem may be alarming, with news that even our last resort antibiotics are beginning to fail, but there is hope. This Irish highlands soil joins a growing list of strange places that potential treatments have been found in recent years, with others including platypus milk, tobacco flowers, rattlesnake venom, human breast milk, honey, maple syrup, and frog skin.

The research was published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.

Source: Swansea University via Science Daily

9 comments
Mr T
Many natural remedies are overlooked by the mainstream medical community because they aren't being made by big pharma. Let's be honest, most doctors only know what the pharma companies tell them, they are glorified drug pushers. A classic example was trying to remove warts from my hands many years back. The mainstream idea is to freeze them off (painful, and often fails) or use treatments like salicylic acid (useless). I gave up on mainstream medicine and looked around online, found a natural oil based remedy that killed warts by actually killing the virus (yes kids, there are natural products that can kill viruses without hurting you). It was called wartfree but it seems that wartfree is a different product now, and the original, made from a mix of essential oils, seems to have disappeared. But, there are plenty of other examples out there, you just have to look for them.
Robert Schreib
?? Could the radioactive soil of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster area in Russia, provide us with new varieties of bacteria, that could likewise give us new kinds of antibiotics?
akarp
Yes! I love seeing stories about researchers looking at the world around us instead of pushing anohter synthetic pharma product. We humans have so, so, so much more to learn about how this planet is working. I hope to see pharma coutninuing to add value through research and testing. While at the same time getting AWAY from trying to synthetics.
hibni
On this subject I strongly suggest to read a wonderful book: "Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues" by Martin Blaser.
Kpar
Kind of gives a new meaning to the "Auld Sod", doesn't it?
Nik
As a kid, in the 50's, the recommended 'country' treatment for warts was dandelion juice. It worked for me, so there's probably no reason it should not still work. There was a TV program in England where a skeleton from the middle ages was exhumed and studied, and it was shown that the person had suffered horrific life threatening injuries, probably 'battle scars' but had survived many years after, so that there must have been some very potent natural medications at the time. The herbal lore in England, was lost, when 'doctors' who were descended from barbers and butchers, carried out a determined vendetta against the women concerned, by declaring them witches, and having them subsequently, either drowned, or burnt to death, to remove them as competition. Luckily, that didnt happen in non 'christian' countries like China, so their herbal lore still exists, and has been shown to be effective, when 'big pharma's' products have failed. What few western doctors acknowledge, is that 70% of 'modern,' present day, pharma synthetic products, originated from herbal remedies. The most obvious of these is the contraception pill, which was derived from the Amazon rain forests. Many more wait to be 'discovered' again.
EZ
Speaking from the standpoint of one who has lost all faith in American Medicine, I've been studying and experimenting with natural plant compounds that have been around a long time. One interesting thing I've learned is that most of them are resistant to bacteria/virus maneuvers to defend against them. All synthetic compounds are simple enough for the invaders to resist and defend against. But, there's no money in it for the pills pushers. Maybe there would be if we changed the patent laws?
Eric Blenheim
Phage medicine, as this is called, has been around for a very long time, and is currently offered in Russia as an alternative to the usual allopathic medicine. As early as 1917, microorganisms were already being used to kill other microorganisms, as every germ has a natural predator. The Russians excel in such research, and offer such therapy whenever requested.
judahis
As a scientist trained through the PhD level in the field of soils, botany, etc, the advantages of exploring new treatments that rely on "raw" natural products more than synthesized molecules from same products has intrigued me. Yes, many medicines have been derived from "natural" products, but, due to constraints of time, economics, are tested for short periods of time and the adverse side effects show up such that some are taken off the market after a certain percentage of them kill or maim their guinea pig takers. The tyranny of the minority, I call it, has attacked modern medicine, such that miracle medicines, some on the market for decades, are now denied to the majority as the small minority who suffer adverse effects dictate that the majority be denied. The solution, of course, is to find measures to determine which individuals will suffer from the medicines and which will benefit. Research is ongoing and someday will be more effective. It is likely that more "natural" products (less altered) probably have less side effects due to other molecules in the products which modify deleterious effects. Unfortunately, there are so many cons out there that sell their wares (should be called bewares) that the alternative medicine field is too dense a minefield for most to tread. Another big problem is that jumps from animal etc studies to human benefits are often thrown into the mix and the unsuspecting public bites on the nonsense of "clinical trials" with no real accountability or even actual citation of research when these "natural" product salesmen try to trick the consumer. THE SOLUTION: Dig as deep as you can. The field is also complicated by the nature of the soil in which the product is grown, processing, storage etc.