Folk soil remedy could provide new antibiotic breakthrough

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An ancient County Fermanagh folk remedy has been found to have remarkable qualities that could create new antibiotics which are desperately needed on the world stage.

Local historian Frank McHugh said people come from “far and wide to take the soil home” from a churchyard at Boho.

He said the tradition dates back to the Reverend James McGirr, the parish priest on Boho in 1803.

“What he said was, ‘after I die, the clay that covers me will cure anything that I cured when I was with you’.”

An international team of researchers trying to find new antibiotics took samples to see if there was any scientific basis for the cure.

Dr Gerry Quinn found a unique strain of streptomyces, a microorganism used to produce antibiotics.

It was found to kill the top three pathogens (organisms that cause disease) which had been identified by the World Health Organisation as a major threat to human health.

“When we brought the soil back to the laboratory we found a new species of streptomyces that had never been discovered before and it contained many antibiotics and some of these antibiotics actually killed some multi-resistant pathogens,” he told BBC News NI.