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Connecticut researchers find connection between scorpions and better antibiotics

A scorpion stinger close-up.jpg
Eastern Connecticut State University
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A scorpion stinger close-up

A new study has discovered the venomous stingers of scorpions contain bacteria that could be useful in the development of new antibiotic medicines.

Barbara Murdoch, a biologist at Eastern Connecticut State University who served as the senior author of the research study, said their findings are significant if it helps to alleviate the global issue of antibiotic resistance.

LtoR Professor Barbara Murdoch, Biology student Lauren Atkinson and biology student Christopher Shimwell researching the scorpion stingers.jpg
Eastern Connecticut State University
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LtoR Professor Barbara Murdoch, Biology student Lauren Atkinson and biology student Christopher Shimwell researching the scorpion stingers

“Most of the antibiotics that we use today are actually derived from bacteria,” Murdoch said. “So, if you can find new lineages, new types of bacteria, it could be a treasure trove for new antibiotics. And then those antibiotics could be helpful to treat human bacterial infections.”

A growing number of infections, such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, are becoming harder to treat with antibiotics. This leads to more resistant illnesses, and longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality of patients.

Murdoch said they chose scorpions because they can live and survive in extreme environments.

“Humans have been on the Earth for, let's say for 0.2 million years,” she said. “Scorpions have been on the planet for more than 400 million years. So, their longevity combined with their success and, of course, they have a little bit of an intrigue, as most people don’t come across scorpions in their everyday life, depending on where you live, sort of added some interesting areas for the research.”

The bacteria is found on the scorpions’ venom producing organ, which was once believed to be a sterile environment.

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.