Irish folk medicine stops an antibiotic-resistant bacteria

” In hospitals, in our food, and even in the ocean, antibiotic resistance is a problem scientists are hurrying to address.

Researchers discovered one potential solution to the crisis — and it’s more old-school than you might think. Alkaline soil from the Boho Highlands of Northern Ireland contains a new strain of bacteria — Streptomyches sp. myrophorea — which inhibits the growth of four of the six multi-resistant pathogens that the WHO calls “high-priority pathogens.”

” The soil came from a specific and historically significant site: Sacred Heart Church, located in the town of Toneel North. The The Boho Highlands region was significant to Neolithic people, Druids, and early Christian missionaries, as Inverse reported when the study was first published.

There, dirt has been sourced for Irish folk medicine for hundreds — possibly thousands — of years. It’s been used to heal toothaches and infections, for example, by placing a small handful of cloth-wrapped soil next to the ailment.

Using the same soil today for science presents a marriage of past and present, showing how traditional beliefs can inform today’s advances.

Fascinating stuff. This article was originally published almost exactly a year ago. INVERSE republished it as part of a year-end review of their top 20 stories in 2019.

I haven’t taken the time to check current stats on percentages of traditional beliefs that turn out to be harmful vs productive; but, that isn’t the point of the article. My feeling is that it reflects the portion of a scientific mind that comes down on the side of inclusive research.

Unheard of microbial diversity found in remote Amazon tribe

Yanomami boy, early morning light
Click through to photographer’s site

A multicenter team of U.S. and Venezuelan scientists, led by researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center, have discovered the most diverse collection of bodily bacteria yet in humans among an isolated tribe of Yanomami Indians in the remote Amazonian jungles of southern Venezuela…

By comparison, the microbiome of people living in industrialized countries is about 40 percent less diverse, the scientists estimate…

The results, the researchers say, suggest a link between modern antibiotics and industrialized diets, and greatly reduced diversity of the human microbiome–the trillions of bacteria that live in and on the body and are increasingly seen as vital to our health.

The Yanomami villagers of this study, who have subsisted by hunting and gathering for hundreds of generations, are believed to have lived in total seclusion from the outside world until 2009 when they were first contacted by a medical expedition. Among a rare population of people unexposed to modern antibiotics, the villagers offer a unique window onto the human microbiome.

…Maria Dominguez-Bello…senior author of the study…says, “Our results bolster a growing body of data suggesting a link between, on the one hand, decreased bacterial diversity, industrialized diets, and modern antibiotics, and on the other, immunological and metabolic diseases–such as obesity, asthma, allergies, and diabetes, which have dramatically increased since the 1970s,” notes Dr. Dominguez-Bello. “We believe there is something environmental occurring in the past 30 years that is driving these diseases. We think the microbiome could be involved…”

A genetic analysis of gut and oral bacteria…revealed that the Yanomami villagers had bacteria containing genes coding for antibiotic resistance. The bacterial genes conferred resistance not only to natural antibiotics found in the soil but, surprisingly, to synthetic antibiotics as well…

The resistant genes, however, seem to be silenced because cultured strains of the bacteria were sensitive to antibiotics. “The silenced antibiotic-resistant genes show that you don’t need exposure to antibiotics to possess antibiotic-resistant genes,” adds Dr. Dominquez Bello.

The presence of resistance genes in microbiota unexposed to antibiotics may help explain the rapid rate at which bacteria develop resistance to new classes of antibiotics, notes Dr Gautam Dantas.

Grandma may be right, once again. Let your kids eat dirt.

OTOH, some of this work reinforces the [new] minority opinion that antibiotic resistance isn’t acquired exclusively from overuse, over-prescription.