Superbugs are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics and threaten to cause 10 M deaths per year worldwide by 2050. Without a commitment to finding new antibiotic leads now, we will head back into the pre-penicillin era, where a scrape could cost you your life if it became infected. Soils for Science (S4S) was set up to explore the chemical and biological properties of bacteria and fungi found in soil to find new antibiotics. Australians send soil using our kit, aiding our team of 6 scientists to identify microbes, explore their properties, and find antibiotic leads. Over 10,000 samples received, we discovered 64 priority strains capable of producing new antibiotics. Our S4S newsletter is issued 6 times per year to > 3000 subscribers and features content such as profiles of partners, citizen scientists, researchers and project updates. We engaged a Teacher-in-Residence to develop educational materials aligned to the Australian curriculum to serve as a free resource for teachers.
Zeinab Khalil is the Director of the Soils for Science citizen science project and the Australian Research Council Fellow at the University of Queensland (UQ) in the antibiotic biodiscovery research spanning the fields of organic chemistry and microbiology. Zeinab completed a bachelor and master degrees in Pharmacy, Egypt. She moved to Australia where she was awarded a PhD UQ scholarship in 2009. During her PhD at the UQ (awarded 2013) she pioneered in successfully accelerating the discovery of new antibiotics from marine and terrestrial environments. To date, she identified and evaluated >15 new drugs targeting infectious diseases.