A high school student from Cork has a new antibiotic from blackberries that fights killer antibiotic-resistant MRSA.
A 15-year-old science student Simon Meehan of Coláiste Choilm won first place in the 54th BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition. His discovery that the chemicals found within blackberries could form antibiotics that kills Staphylococcus aureus - often known as the MRSA virus which that is well known for being resistant to antibiotics.
And he says his grandfather - a herbalist - was the inspiration that kept him going, keeping a frame picture of him at his side whilst he worked.
“I can’t tell you how I feel, out of my mind, I’m dreaming!” he said after his win was announced.
“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 in an interview afterwards.
“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.”
Professor John O’Halloran, who helped judge the competition, was fulsome in his praise for Simon’s work: “This is a really exciting project which explores the possibility of the blackberry leaf extracts’ ability to control harmful bacteria. The unexpected findings deliver a unique approach to killing bacteria using natural plant active ingredients. The rigour of the approach adopted by Simon set his project apart from competitors and made him our overall winner.”
His science teacher at Coláiste Choil, Ms Lyne, said, “He's one of the most unassuming and popular students. Everyone is delighted with his success.”