"The good bacteria we're studying has been keeping turkey farms healthy for years and it has the potential to keep humans healthy as well," said BYU microbiologist Joel Griffitts.

The good bacteria, Strain 115 as scientists know it, produces the MP1 antibiotic - a known killer that could target staph infections, strep throat, severe gastrointestinal diseases and roughly half of all infectious bacteria.     

This antibiotic, however, is not in widespread use because of its complex structure.

Researchers have used mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to identify exactly how Strain 115 makes this antibiotic and how it manages to do so without killing itself.

They found the engine inside of Strain 115, a compact DNA molecule also known as a plasmid, produces both the killer antibiotic and a self-protecting agent.

It makes a "spare" ribosome part which, when inserted into a normal ribosome, renders it immune to the antibiotic.     

Strain 115 was discovered by now-retired BYU professor Marcus Jensen at a turkey farm more than three decades ago.     

Through his research on the strain, Jensen went on to develop three vaccines vital to the prevention of diseases in turkeys.

While his work with turkeys became widely known and led to awards, his research moved in new directions and the strain was set aside in 1983.

Some 30 years later, a student found the strain in a freezer. After some initial research efforts, graduate student Philip Bennallack took the project into high gear.
The group has published their findings in the Journal of Bacteriology.

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