NWTC Students and Their Search For New Antibiotics

Local News

Students at NWTC have wrapped up a year-long effort to try to discover new antibiotics. And they’re about to present their findings, aimed at solving what the CDC calls a growing crisis.

Microbiology students at NWTC have been on a mission this past year to discover new antibiotics from bacteria found in soil.

“The amount of infections we have that are antibiotic resistant are ever increasing and our supply of antibiotics is ever decreasing as far as their effectiveness,” said Dr. Angelo Kolokithas, a microbiology instructor.

The CDC says that each year two million people become infected by bacteria resistant to antibiotics and over 20,000 die from those infections. A dilemma that Dr. Kolokithas says must be addressed.

“We will soon die of things like strep throat if we don’t address this,” said the instructor.

Students like Shannon Moreau have been taking part in the “Tiny Earth” program, working with 160 colleges around the world to discover new bacteria that leads to new antibiotics. 

“I feel like it would be tremendous to our world if we could discover new things,” said Moreau.

“It’s estimated that we’ve only discovered less than one percent of the possible bacteria in the soil,” said Dr. Kolokithas.

Samples came from all over – yards, gardens, soil close to a beehive – and bacteria was uncovered.

“We’ve had about 212 antibiotic producing bacteria found,” Kolokithas said. 

And while the majority are already known, several are not.

“There are a couple we found that are not in the known database and that’s always exciting when we see that,” he said.

The findings will be entered into an international database and this Friday night the research will be made public at Lambeau Field. And then the wait is on to see if Wisconsin soil can solve a growing crisis.

“We’re not sure if they will develop, but it’s always very hopeful,” Dr. Kolokithas said.

Some 120 college students will be presenting in the scientific symposium and 80 are from NWTC.

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