New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill on Friday (May 10) to officially make Streptomyces griseus the state microbe, reports the Associated Press. The bacteria produce the antibiotic streptomycin, which is used to treat tuberculosis and has lowered the death rate from 194 out of every 100,000 people (infected and uninfected) in 1900 to 9 per 100,000 in 1955, according to the AP.
S. griseus was discovered in soil from New Jersey in 1916. Albert Schatz, Elizabeth Bugie, and Selman Waksman of Rutgers developed the antibiotic in 1944, according to the university’s website.
In addition to helping save lives, the development of streptomycin was important for New Jersey financially. “It was huge for the economy. Streptomycin got all the rest of the antibiotic industry going. A lot of that was based in New Jersey,” microbiologist John Warhol of Warhol Institute tells the North Jersey Record.
The only state that currently has a state microbe is Oregon with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a designation that passed in 2013. The microbe is a brewer’s or baker’s yeast and is important to the state’s brewing industry, KVAL reported at the time.
Other states that have proposed state microbes include Wisconsin and Hawaii, which didn’t successfully designate any microbes. Wisconsin proposed Lactococcus lactis, a bacterium that ferments lactose and is used in making cheese, according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison website. Hawaii proposed Flavobacterium akiainvivens and Aliivibrio fischeri. F. akiainvivens was found in Hawaii in 2012 and produces an enzyme that may be used in medicine, according to The Maui News in 2013.
Illinois could name a state microbe later this year. The proposal lawmakers are considering is to honor Penicillium chrysogenum, a source of penicillin.