What’s a Scientist?

BlackberryMeet Simon Meehan, an engaging 15-year old high school student from County Cork, Ireland, who was just awarded the top prize at the prestigious BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, beating out 1,100 students involved in some 550 projects.

Simon’s interest is in how we can use common plants to treat antibiotic-resistant infections driven by ubiquitous bugs such as Staphylococcus aureus, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

His project is called “Investigation of the antimicrobial effects of both aerial [leaf] and root parts of selected plants against Staphylococcus aureus.” It looked at nine locally sourced plants such as asparagus, nettles and blackberries to test for the presence of chemicals which could potentially be used to control bacterial infection. In the end, he found two plants that did the trick, leaf and fruit extracts from the common blackberry plant (pictured), and a root extract from Mare’s tail. In Simon’s words:

My major conclusion is that I have found an organic non-toxic and locally abundant herb that has antioxidant and antimicrobial effect against MRSA … Staphylococcus aureus, and also Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a potentially deadly bug, especially for those with cystic fibrosis.

I have found an antibiotic that is organic, non-toxic and antimicrobial. And this is in the blackberry of all plants. I mean, you hear of people going to the Amazonian Rainforest, whereas [I] found something outside [my] back door. And I feel, without disrespecting the scientific community too much, there should be some conclusion drawn from this – that we are over-thinking science in too many ways.


Not content to leave it there, Simon wants to extend his research by testing the plant extracts on other bacteria. And he also wants to explore his curious finding that there was “a major difference” in the effectiveness of the blackberry plant depending on the time of year he picked it, June versus August.

Because of Simon’s youthfulness we might conclude that he will be a future force in science. But given what his rigorous research has already uncovered and the further work he has planned, we may want to think about his observation in the video below:

“Science appears to be seen in a much more sophisticated way than necessary. And I feel that we don’t sometimes see what is right in front of our eyes.” (Italics added.)

Mr. Simon Meehan is now waiting on a patent for his extraction method for the blackberry bush that could lead to its widespread use as an antibiotic.


When you use antibiotics you affect the lives of others

The Government of Canada announced this week that farmers – from the small farm to the increasingly prevalent industrial scale “factory farms” – will need a prescription before they can use antibiotics on their food-producing animals. The new rule takes effect this coming December.

Ottawa grounds the need for the rule on:

[T]he emergence of so-called ‘superbugs’ … one of the most significant health threats to Canadians.… [where] The overuse or inappropriate use of antibiotics contributes to the development of [antibiotic resistance] in people and animals. Examples [of inappropriate use] include giving antibiotics to … animals when they are not needed.

Targeting agriculture stops the disease threat at its source. As the chart below demonstrates, bad bugs created on the farm make their way through the environment into your home and community.

Notice the fine print: the use of antibiotics by one person (or group) can adversely affect the health of another person because (1) antibiotics give rise to harder to treat illness and (2) the antibiotics themselves become less effective over time.

No other drug does this. For example, taking aspirin, insulin, or hypertension medication only affects the person taking them and the drugs retain their potency over generations.

Commenting on the government’s new rule and the unique societal feature of antibiotics, John Prescott, retired professor of pathobiology at the University of Guelph, told the CBC that “Farmers need to see this as part of their societal obligation. They need to understand why it’s being done, accept it, embrace it and work with it.”

Prescott notes that it’s not just farmers who have this obligation to others to use antibiotics appropriately: “Everybody has to reduce their use of antibiotics to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics. This is agriculture stepping up to the plate.” (Emphasis added.)

Livestock 3





Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Staypressed theme by Themocracy