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The Next Miracle Antibiotic: Clay?


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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.

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