Microbe vs. Microbe

In this Mini Post, two of our favorite subjects, microbes and dirt, come together. In a new report, researchers were able to extract a powerful new antibiotic from a bacteria found in the soil. Teixobactin is made by the soil bacteria Eleftheria terrae. The researchers are excited because they feel the way this antibiotic works is less likely to lead to resistance, but that remains to be seen.

And, although this could become an important new weapon in our arsenal against bad bacteria, there was no mention of what kind of havoc it could wreak with our good bacteria.

Perhaps more exciting than the discovery of the antibiotic is the method they used to extract it. The method allows bacteria that wouldn’t otherwise grow in the lab to reproduce, and since 99% of microbes in the environment are bacteria that don’t normally grow in the lab, this method should lead to a trove of new discoveries of beneficial compounds over the next years and decades.

On a side note, clay-eating, or geophagy, is common in some cultures (like Hollywood culture). Conventional thought associates this with a need for certain minerals. But might it also provide some microbial and medicinal benefits? I’m not endorsing running out to your backyard to grab a mouthful of dirt. But we could stand to do a little less hand-wringing about dirt on our organic veggies and in our kids’ mouths.

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