On May 15, State Senator Samuel D. Thompson, representing New Jersey’s 12th District, introduced Senate Bill No. 3190, designating another New Jersey emblem. At the time, the Garden State had a state dance (the square dance), a state animal (horse), a state fish (brook trout), a state flower (common meadow violet), a state bird (Eastern goldfinch), a state fruit (highbush blueberry), a state tree (red oak), state colors (buff and Jersey blue), and even a state bug (honey bee). What New Jersey didn’t have was a state germ. Thompson proposed Streptomyces griseus.
New Jersey wasn’t the first state to make such a proposal. In 2010, Wisconsin proposed Lactococcus lactis, which is used in the manufacture of Colby, Cheddar, and Monterey Jack cheeses, as its state germ. Legislators dropped the proposal the following year .In 2013, Oregon became the first state to have a state germ after it passed legislation naming Saccharomyces cerevisia, a microbe commonly known as brewer’s yeast, which is used to make beer.
It’s easy to understand why Wisconsin would pick a microbe related to cheese and Oregon would pick one related to beer. (Oregon is a consistent national leader in craft beers). But why Streptomyces griseus in New Jersey?
The streptomyces story begins about a hundred years ago. In 1916, Selman Waksman, a professor of microbiology and biochemistry at Rutgers University, isolated Streptomyces griseus from New Jersey soil. The reason he was interested in streptomyces was that the microbe was remarkable in its ability to survive under difficult environmental conditions, out-competing other bacteria. Streptomyces, as it turns out, makes a substance that can kill other bacteria—a substance that would later become enormously useful.
Read more at The Daily Beast
The New Jersey Germ That Probably Saved Your Life
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