This summer, science advances … a shovel in hand

Soil richness is not measured only in oil or diamonds. A team of scientists from Inserm and the University of Paris have launched a participatory science project to search for bacteria in the ground beneath our feet. “Approximately 80% of the antibiotics used today come from soil bacteria, Figure Vincent Lebes, co-chair and researcher at Inserm. However, the search for new antibiotics has ceased since the 1970s, and existing molecules are becoming less and less effective. »

1 million deaths due to antibiotic resistance in 2019

Over time and evolution, pathogens become resistant to treatment. A study published last January in the medical journal scalpel It is estimated that 1.2 million deaths worldwide in 2019 were due to this antibiotic resistance. Given the time needed to develop new molecules, we must start the task now.

Bacteria produce chemical defenses to protect themselves from other bacteria.describes the researcher. It is these chemical molecules that we adapt to produce new antibiotics.” Examples include erythromycin, which is given to people with angina or bronchitis, or tetracycline, used in human medicine but also in animal health. Discovering new bacteria makes it possible to find new potential molecules, and thus new antibiotics.

1 teaspoon of soil

But for that, we have to examine our environment and the research team is not enough. Hence the idea came Shovel Science Program, which appeals to goodwill to collect a small sample of soil, equivalent to a teaspoon, is ubiquitous in France. The sample should be taken from the bottom of the first layer of topsoil, and placed in a freezer bag or a small bag.

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It is also necessary to write down the coordinates of the place of harvest via GPS, and then send the sample by La Poste (1). Pay attention to where the samples are taken: some areas are protected and it is forbidden to take soil there, even for a participatory scientific mission. “We rely a lot on the creativity of citizens, to look in places we haven’t thought of”Vincent Lebes hopes. At the moment, samples have already been taken from dozens of French municipalities, with about 400 samples.

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