August 1 – Clear As Mud

Today’s factismal: Researchers have isolated a new type of antibiotic from bacteria living in ocean mud.

One of the most common questions that non-scientists ask scientists is “What good is your research?” The average joe wants to know why anyone would want to spend years studying radio noise or volcanoes or coin flips. And they want to know why their hard-earned tax dollars should support the scientist’s work. Aren’t there better things to do with that money?

A group of scientists working on a National Institute of Health grant have an answer to both questions: anthracimycin. That funny-sounding word is an antibiotic that some types of bacteria living in ocean mud excrete in order to protect themselves from other types of bacteria. Sounds boring, right? What if I told you that the bacteria that are killed by anthracimycin include Bacillus anthracis (that’s anthrax to you) and Staphylococcus aureus (that’s staph to you). And what if I told you that the antibiotic didn’t just kill the common varieties but also worked on the exotic ones like the Methecillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA or “superbug” to you)?

That’s right. Years of patient work by scientists in the field who collected different types of ocean mud, followed by years more of work by researchers in the lab who classified and observed the bacteria in the lab have created a brand-new antibiotic that might help us stem the rising tide of MRSA. That’s what good pure scientific research is. If you’d like to help the researchers stretch their funding, then why not help them by donating your spare computer time? The RNA World folks are looking for people who wouldn’t mind if their computer helped look for RNA patterns that might point the way to the next anthracimycin. To participate, head over to their web site:

One thought on “August 1 – Clear As Mud

  1. Pingback: September 15 – Making the Tardigrade | Little facts about science

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