Biologists at the University of Warwick are to co-ordinate a European research programme which will quite literally act on the old adage that "where there's muck there's brass". They will search soils and sludge from the bottom of the sea for new forms of DNA that can be used to make the next generation of antibiotics.
It has long been known that soil contains a staggering range of biological organisms. Scientists have found several of these organisms to contain useful medical or industrial properties and have cultivated those organisms for such use. However, researchers have only been able to cultivate 1% of the biological matter found in soil. The rest of this vast biological reservoir exists only in minute quantities, as fragments of full organisms, or in quiescent states that require very precise conditions for re-activation.
Thus, over 99% of the soil's biodiversity was inaccessible to researchers - until now. University of Warwick biologist, Dr. Elizabeth Wellington (the research project leader) will co-ordinate 6 labs across Europe and guide them in the use of techniques which allow them to extract the DNA of these previously inaccessible organisms direct from the soil.
This vast new supply of novel DNA can then be examined to find material that will provide new antibiotics (which will help in the battle against antibiotic resistant superbugs), enzymes, and other useful biotechnology products.