Public join in hunt for new antibiotics in Thetford Forest soil

Visitors to High Lodge in Thetford Forest next week can join scientists from the University of East Anglia (UEA) who will be digging for clues in the race to solve the problem of antibiotic resistance, as part of the Microbiology Society’s ‘Antibiotics Unearthed’ project.

Antibiotics Unearthed is a crowd sourced science project, which members of the public can get involved in during a ‘pop up’ event in Thetford on Thursday, May 4, from 10am-4pm.

People visiting the Pop-Up Science Centre will help scientists search for new antibiotics by collecting and preparing a spoonful of East Anglian soil that will be sent off to UEA for analysis.

Prof Laura Bowater, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Antibiotics are vital medicines used to treat bacterial infections. Most are made by soil bacteria, so people taking part in Antibiotics Unearthed can make a real contribution in our search for new ones.”

Participants will be able to follow the progress of their soil sample online, working with scientists to analyse the colour, shape and size of the bacteria living within it, and find out if any antibiotics are being produced.

Prof Bowater added: “Many of our most effective antibiotics have been found by scientists screening soil samples. It makes sense to keep looking there and getting samples from members of the public will help us on our way.”

Members of the public will be able to meet members of the Antibiotics Unearthed team, and can find out what antibiotics are, where they come from, and why we need them.

Prof Neil Gow, President of the Microbiology Society, said: “People taking part in Antibiotics Unearthed can make a difference in the search for new antibiotics and contribute to the awareness that these wonder drugs are a precious and finite resource needed to tackle life threatening infections.”

Earlham institute
Quadram Institute Bioscience
John Innes Centre
The Sainsbury Laboratory
University of East Anglia

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