The Next Miracle Antibiotic: Clay?


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

The Independent reports on the discovery of potent antibiotic powers in a combination of smectite and illite excavated from French volcanic mountains—yes, clay that can cure disease. In lab tests, the magic muck wiped out 99 percent of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, the same stuff that was recently revealed to kill more Americans than HIV. Thus far researchers have little idea why it works: "We have multiple working hypotheses," says Arizona State clay expert Lynda Williams—which is a good scientist's way of saying, they have no frickin' idea what's going on. More puzzlement: "Our primary hypothesis is that the clay minerals transfer elements, not yet identified, to the bacteria that impede their metabolic function." An interesting alternate hypothesis is that the clay kills by some physical mechanism, as does bleach or ammonia. That would be most welcome news, because it means bacteria would not easily evolve resistance.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month
Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
1 free articleSubscribe
Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%


Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.