the soil commons

posted June 22, 2016

Many of the most widely used antibiotics have come out of the dirt. Penicillin came from Penicillium, a fungus found in soil, and vancomycin came from a bacterium found in dirt. Last year, researchers from Northeastern University and NovoBiotic Pharmaceuticals and their colleagues identified a new Gram-positive bacteria-targeting antibiotic from a soil sample collected in Maine that can kill species including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Moreover, the researchers have not yet found any bacteria that are resistant to the antibiotic, called teixobactin. Their results are published  in Nature.

To read more of this article and the innovative (and biodiversity driven) bacteria culturing method, click HERE!

a gut feeling

posted January 17, 2016


Last August we shared a New York Times piece on a new and growing body of research that suggests that the bacteria living in the human digestive track plays an intricate role in the production of hormones and regulation of mood. Research featured in that article found a correlation between certain strains of bacteria and psychological woes such as depression and anxiety. One study fed mice a strand of bacteria that made the mice act as “though they were on prozac.” It was awesome and kind of earth-shaking, and if you haven’t read it yet, you probably should.

That all being said, our sweet farming fermentation fanatics, are you ready for this stuff to get even more bananas? Check out this article out of an October edition of the Scientific American. Research explored here showed that fecal transplants between mice were able to dramatically change a mouse’s character. For instance, a bold mouse, when given a transplant from a shy mouse, become shy. A normal mouse, when given a transplant from an anxious human, becomes more neurotic. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

By all accounts, our micro biome is shaped by many factors– from our mother’s experience during pregnancy to whether or not we were breastfed to what kinds of bacteria we encounter in our every day life. We can imagine that research on bacteria might have the potential to explain all kinds of public health phenomena, from chronic depression to the obesity epidemic.

In the meantime, we’re hedging our bets by increasing our kimchi consumption.