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Are the best medicines hidden in the Earth? French green clays are used for healing Buruli ulcers. Lynda Williams, a biogeochemist at Arizona State University and colleague Keith Morrison set out to identify naturally-occurring antibacterial clays effective at killing antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The scientists headed to the field – the rock field. In a volcanic deposit near Crater Lake, Oregon, they hit pay dirt. Back in the lab, the researchers incubated the pathogens Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus epidermidis, which breeds skin infections, with clays from different zones of the Oregon deposit. They found that the clays' rapid uptake of iron impaired bacterial metabolism. Cells were flooded with excess iron, which overwhelmed iron storage proteins and killed the bacteria. (Credit: Thierry Brunet de Courssou)


Blue and white clay zones in the Oregon deposit, separated by a vein of rock containing sulfur. (Credit: Lynda Williams)


Biogeochemist Keith Morrison sampling an outcrop of blue clay in the Oregon deposit. (Credit: Lynda Williams)


Nodule of Oregon blue clay, coated with red clay and sulfur crystals encased in white clay. (Credit: Lynda Williams)


Scientist Lynda Williams imaging clay interactions with bacteria under a microscope. (Credit: Thierry Brunet de Courssou)

Read: Can Clay Address Superbug Infection Concerns?

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