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My Experience With The Tiny Earth Project by Suzanna G

Prior to signing up for this class, my knowledge of multi-drug resistant pathogens and the urgent need to discover new antibiotics was limited. I understood there was an increase in antibiotic-resistant pathogens, but I did not fully understand the extreme extent of this problem. The Tiny Earth Project’s first goal is to “Educate students and the public about the antibiotic crisis” and it was through this project that I was able to further expand upon my knowledge of antibiotics (Hernandez, Tsang, Bascom-Slack, Broderick, & Handelsman, 2018). So what are antibiotics and why are they relevant to Tiny Earth? Antibiotics are referred to as “compounds produced by bacteria and fungi”, these compounds are then able to effectively kill or slow down the growth of different invading microbes (“Discovery and Development of Penicillin”). The WHO listed seven pathogens that are in urgent need of finding new effective antibiotic treatments, due to these pathogens developing resistance towards multiple antibiotics (De Oliveira, Forde, Kidd, Harris, Schembri, Beatson, Paterson, & Walker, 2020). These seven pathogens are known as the “ESKAPE pathogens” and can be safely studied in labs using their “safe ESKAPE relatives”. These safe ESKAPE relatives are safe alternatives to study in the lab that will not severely jeopardize the health of the students conducting research (Hernandez, Tsang, Bascom-Slack, Broderick, & Handelsman, 2018).


Student at her laboratory bench
Suzanna G at her lab bench

The Tiny Earth project emphasizes the importance of looking into the soil for new antibiotics, as pharmaceutical companies most often believe that the research time and low chances of finding antibiotics in the soil are not worth the cost. When collecting soil samples I chose samples that had constant maintenance to it through landscaping and I later felt that perhaps this choice would not lead me to find antibiotic producers. Even with these small doubts, I was amazed at all of the different species of bacteria that had grown on the Petri dish and felt a sudden hope that maybe I would find at least one antibiotic producer. I tested 30 individual colonies against multiple safe ESKAPE relatives and was thrilled to find that 5 colonies were effective antibiotic producers. This project really increased my understanding of how there are opportunities to discover major antibiotics in the soil and that the Tiny Earth Network is a brilliant method in sharing information on antibiotic discovery globally.

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