Church soils cures infections.
A local folk remedy in Boho, Ireland was to place soil from the local church under a pillow while you slept to cure infections. In 2018 a microbiologist found the churchyard’s soil contains a previously unknown strain of streptomyces which can be used to create antibiotics
An ancient folk remedy from County Fermanagh could help scientists in the fight against drug-resistant bacteria.
According to local legend, the soil from a churchyard in Boho can cure infections.
A microbiologist who took samples to see if there was any scientific basis for the remedy has made an astonishing discovery.
Dr Gerry Quinn found a unique strain of streptomyces, a microorganism used to produce antibiotics.
It was found to kill the top three pathogens (organisms that cause disease) identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a major threat to human health.
“When we brought the soil back to the laboratory we found a new species of streptomyces that had never been discovered before and it contained many antibiotics and some of these antibiotics actually killed some multi-resistant pathogens,” he told a local news outlet.
“Originally I was surprised as it was a folk remedy and there seemed to be a lot of superstition around it, but in the back of my head I realised that there’s always something behind these traditions or they wouldn’t be going on so long.”
Dr Quinn is part of an international team of researchers trying to find new antibiotics and the discovery in Boho has been published in Frontiers of Microbiology.
The WHO has warned that people could die from simple infections that have been treatable for decades because the more antibiotics are used, the less effective they become.
Local historian Frank McHugh, a member of the Boho Heritage Group, said little has been written about the Boho cure, but the tradition dates back to the Reverend James McGirr, the parish priest on Boho in 1803.
“He must obviously have had the facility to cure people and people must have thought very highly of him.
“What he said was, ‘after I die, the clay that covers me will cure anything that I cured when I was with you’.
Sacred Heart Church stands on a site that has been used for Christian worship for more than 1,500 years and in a nearby field are 4,000 year old Neolithic stone carvings.
Dr Quinn believes the spiritual significance of the Boho area relates to the cure in the soil.
“I have no doubt the cure must have been used back then.
“I equate spiritual significance with health, which was very important in the days when they didn’t have any medicinal cures,” he said.
Dr Quinn said that the next stage is to identify more bacteria and the antibiotics in the soil cure.
“This particular organism doesn’t just produce one antibiotic, it actually produces 10, 20 antibiotics in one organism.
“And we haven’t just found one organism, we found something like 10 organisms.
“So this gives us something in the region of possibly a hundred different antibiotics, and what we need to do is identify these antibiotics and then conduct clinical trials.”