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Exploring Tiny Earth to Find Novel Antibiotics

With the rise of antibiotic resistance and the current soil crisis, infectious disease has the ability to spread rapidly within the biosphere. Degradation of the soil environment due to erosion, climate change and farming leaves limited space and nutrients that soil microbes need to grow. Diminishing microbial health in addition to antibiotic resistance genes spreading because of improper disposal and natural selection shifts is a growing concern for public health. With both of these concerns, the purpose of this research is to find novel antimicrobials within the local soil to combat against bacterial pathogens. This work contributes to a larger project, Tiny Earth, which is fighting against antibiotic resistance by using natural resources and ecosystems to find antimicrobials. Through obtaining soil samples around the Westfield area, dilutions and biochemical tests were performed to classify bacterial strains that displayed antibiotic characteristics. Bacterial species were identified using PCR analysis, GeneWiz and a BLAST search from the obtained 16s rDNA sequence. Beyond this initial classification, the next questions ask what are the chemical metabolites that are being used by bacteria to resist pathogens. To answer this, extraction methods of the supernatants and pellets were performed to test organic layers against the pathogens. Through extracting the antibiotic compounds, insight can be given to answer the questions surrounding the rise of resistance and why it spreads so rapidly. Thus, providing answers and possible solutions to the global health concern of antibiotic crisis and the spreading of infectious disease.

Brianna Toomey '23   
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