A bacterium found in New Jersey dirt a century ago has been officially designated the Garden State's official microbe due to its crucial role in treating and curing tuberculosis.
Your state might be great but is it cool enough to have its own official state microbe? Take a bow, New Jersey, you're just the second state (after Oregon) to recognize a microbial lifeform as deserving to be so honored!
Streptomyces griseus is its name, curing tuberculosis is its game. To be fair, it took a while before scientists could create the powerful antibiotic Streptomycin in 1943. Those efforts garnered Rutgers University researcher Selman Waksman the 1952 Nobel Prize for Medicine.
Now the bacterial species itself is being honored: Governor Phil Murphy just signed a bill naming Streptomyces griseus to be New Jersey's state microbe. Fatalities from tuberculosis – known as “The Great White Plague” - fell from 194 deaths per 100,000 people in 1900 to about 9 deaths per 100,000 people in 1955 thanks to streptomycin.
Streptomycin still takes a back seat to Penicillin (which had/has no effect on Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria) in the public mind but perhaps this honor will help change that perception. Besides, there are no doubt plenty of worse things living in New Jersey's dirt. (images via Digital Atlas of Actinomycetes and the American Lung Association)