Dirt was in the news last week.  Scientists at Northeastern University in Massachusetts appear to have isolated a brand new type of antibiotic found in the soil in a farm field in Maine.  Teixobactin is said to aggressively kill even the most resistant “superbugs” that are currently posing grave concerns for human health.
The soil under our feet — where it isn’t covered in asphalt, of course — is the home of the most complex ecosystems on the planet.  The cures for both cancer and Alzeiheimer’s, if they exist at all, may be found in dirt.
Finding and identifying potential compounds in the soil is a big job.  No “soil genomic project” yet exists.  In the process of searching for new potential antibiotics, researchers screened 10,000 microbes.
But finding beneficial microbes in nature is just one part of the problem.  The real breakthrough with Teixobactin is the method that was developed to isolate it.  Antibiotics and other promising microbes are only useful to humans if they can be isolated and manufactured.  99% of bacteria that exist on Earth will not grow under laboratory conditions using current technology.
A small biotech company has developed a patented method to identify beneficial soil microbes, and Teixobactin is their first big success.  Using a small growing chamber called an “IChip”, they actually grow the bacteria underground and collect the compounds they produce.

No one has come around to Terra Firma asking to search our fields for miracle cures.  And while it’s great that soil may provide the source for new medical technologies that could save our lives when we get sick, it’s important to remember that it also is the key to staying healthy in the first place.  We need good soil — and lots of it — to grow good food.  Without good food, all the new antibiotics in the world won’t keep us alive.Thanks,