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Blackberry antibiotic lands Cork student top BT Young Scientist prize

A 15-year-old student from Co Cork who discovered a natural antibiotic in a blackberry bramble plant in his back garden has won the top prize at the 54th BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition.

Simon Meehan of Coláiste Choilm, Ballincollig, who was declared BT Young Scientist and Technologist of the Year at an awards ceremony in Dublin’s RDS on Friday night, found the “non toxic, organic, original antibiotic” after analysing 10 plants widely available in his locality.

“People are going deep into the Amazon rainforest looking for new antibiotics. But I’m a 15-year-old boy who found this down his own back garden. That has got to be amazing,” he told The Irish Times.

“I feel, without disrespecting the scientific community too much, that there should be some conclusions from this. We are over-thinking science in too many ways.”

His work combined botany, microbiology and analytic chemistry to demonstrate its effectiveness in killing Staphylococcus aureus, a bug that infects humans and is increasingly resistant to antibiotic treatment, especially when it comes in the form of the hospital-acquired infection MRSA. It was also shown to be effective in killing Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a potentially deadly bug, especially for those with cystic fibrosis.

He extracted anti-microbial agents from aerial parts of plants and their roots using ethanol and then tested their antibiotic…

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