Folk remedies aren't always taken seriously by scientists, but occasionally age-old wisdom can surprise. Case in point: researchers looking at ancient Irish "healing soil," long believed to have remarkable medicinal properties, have discovered a previously unknown strain of bacteria that produces antibiotics capable of killing four of the world's deadliest superbugs, reports Phys.org.
The soil, which can be found in the Boho Highlands of Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, has a reputation for its ability to heal a number of ailments, ranging from toothaches to throat infections. Its history of use can be traced back to the Druids who once occupied the land, and possibly even as far back as Neolithic times.
"This new strain of bacteria is effective against 4 of the top 6 pathogens that are resistant to antibiotics, including MRSA," said Paul Dyson of Swansea University Medical School, one of the researchers on the study. "Our discovery is an important step forward in the fight against antibiotic resistance.
He added: "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."
Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are one of the biggest threats to global health today, putting millions of lives at risk as researchers frantically search for novel forms of antibiotics to combat the evolving scourge.
The new strain of bacteria discovered in the Irish soil has been named Streptomyces sp. myrophorea, and its discovery offers hope that other new antibiotics might be discovered by studying ancient folk remedies from around the world.
"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," said Dr. Gerry Quinn from the research team. "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."