Historical anecdotes of the red soils from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan tell of people using the soils to treat skin infections and diaper rash. A multinational group of researchers suggest the healing power may be due to antibiotic-producing bacteria they have found living in the soil. This discovery may ultimately lead to new antibiotic treatments against harmful pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus.
The increasing incidence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, especially the methicillin-resistant S. aureus in communities and hospitals, has placed great emphasis on the need for new antimicrobial agents to treat infectious diseases. In an attempt to uncover such resources researchers are exploring some historically recognized natural remedies which are still being used in some communities as an alternative to expensive pharmaceutical drugs.
In the study researchers collected samples of red soils from various geographic locations throughout the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and inoculated them with Micrococcus luteus and S. aureus. Results showed the bacteria were rapidly killed. Additionally, over a three-week incubation period, researchers found that the number of antibiotic-producing bacteria (specifically actinomycetes, Lysobacter spp. and Bacillus spp.) increased and high antimicrobial activity was observed. Further, no myxobacteria or lytic bacteriophages with activity against M. luteus or S. aureus were detected in the soils before or after inoculation and incubation.
"These data provide a rationale for the traditional use of Jordan's red soils for the treatment of skin infections, including diaper rash," say the researchers. "We hypothesize that the application of red soils to an infected area of skin (i.e. inoculation) leads to the proliferation of bacteria that produce antibiotic compounds, killing the infecting skin microbiota."
- Falkinham et al. Proliferation of Antibiotic-Producing Bacteria and Concomitant Antibiotic Production as the Basis for the Antibiotic Activity of Jordan's Red Soils. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2009; 75 (9): 2735 DOI: 10.1128/AEM.00104-09
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