Students at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College are working on a worldwide project to develop new antibiotics. As Local 5’s Kris Schuller reports they’re digging through Wisconsin dirt, hoping to solve what the Centers for Disease Control calls a growing crisis.
In a classroom at NWTC microbiology students study petri dishes – hoping to grow bacteria that can help solve the worldwide dilemma of antibiotic resistance.
“We need to find new antibiotics and we need to do it fast,” said Dr. Matt Peterson, Biology instructor at NWTC.
According to the CDC each year two million people become infected with bacteria resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die a result of these infections. Petersen says it’s an issue that must be addressed.
“If we do nothing by 2050 antibiotic resistant bacteria infections will be the number one killer in the world,” Petersen said.
Now students like Jarod Moyer are teaming up with researchers at 160 colleges around the world searching for new bacteria that leads to new antibiotics. And these students are searching for new bacteria in plain old Wisconsin soil.
“I looked for somewhere where there were lots of things growing, hopefully there will be lots of nutrients in the soil,” said Moyer. “Other than that, it was just a wild guess.”
“Most of the antibiotics that we have found are under our feet in the soil, they are produced by microbes to kill other microbes,” Petersen said. “This is real research and it could potentially lead to real gains in clinical care.”
At the end of the semester the student’s findings will be entered into a data base at UW-Madison and be made available for use by drug companies worldwide.
“I think it’s a reasonable thing to hope for some of these antibiotic producers that we discover – to eventually give rise to drugs used in the clinic,” said Petersen.
New antibiotics – discovered by students – who went searching through the dirt.
Fourteen other colleges and universities in Wisconsin are taking part in the research project.