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Over one hundred NWTC students working to discover new antibiotics

Author: Kara Leiterman

Thursday February 15, 2018
The world is hitting an antibiotic resistance crisis and NWTC students hope to find the cure in dirt.
 
 When that sinus infection hits, many people want an antibiotic to take away the endless runny or stuffy nose or and sinus pressure. But some of the bacteria making people sick could have the ability to resist the effects of drugs. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says, the world is facing a crisis of antibiotic resistance— meaning the germs are not killed and growth is not stopped.  
 
In fact, CDC declared this the “post-antibiotic era,” meaning strains of many common bacteria can be found that are resistant to every antibiotic on the market right now.
 
According to the CDC, every year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. 
 
“If we don’t find new antibiotics soon, people will once again be dying of infections like strep throat,” said Dr. Angelo Kolokithas, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) Microbiology instructor.  
 
NWTC is teaming up with over 160 colleges and universities around the world to develop new antibiotics in order to keep new resistance from developing and to prevent the resistance that already exists from spreading.
 
One-hundred and twenty Microbiology students at the NWTC are currently looking for new bacteria in soil. Many of the drugs people are prescribed come from dirt including penicillin.
 
“This is a great opportunity for students to be engaged in the science community and be their own scientist,” said Kolokithas.
 
He added, it is up to the students to find a soil sample location and how to experiment or test the sample. The samples must be collected in Wisconsin.   
 
The group is working under the direction of NWTC instructors Dr. Kolokithas and Dr. Matt Petersen.
 
At the end of this semester, students will enter their data into an international database at the University of Wisconsin- Madison which is supported by Small World Imitative (SWI). That data makes candidates available for further testing and development by drug companies or other entities.
 
SWI is innovative project that allows students to engaged in authentic research to address a real-world problem and encourage students to pursue careers in science.
 
Fourteen other colleges and universities in Wisconsin area taking part in the research project with most beginning their research in the fall of 2018. 
 
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