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In 2010, when Lilly Holst scraped a lump of soil from the underside of a rotting eggplant, she had no idea that this act would help to save the life of a British teenager, eight years later and 6,000 miles away.

Holst, an undergraduate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, was participating in a project in which students search through local soil samples for new phages—viruses that infect and kill bacteria. Holst found several, and gave them all names. In a worm farm, she discovered Liefe. In an aloe garden, Lixy. And from that decaying eggplant, Muddy. All three viruses infect a common bacterium called Mycobacterium smegmatis. And all of them were new to science.

…continue reading ‘A Dying Teenager’s Recovery Started in the Dirt’

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The Atlantic

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