Streptomyces griseus helped create the world’s first antibiotic for tuberculosis, and state lawmakers want to shine a light on its New Jersey origins and tremendous accomplishments.
Sen. Samuel Thompson, R-Middlesex, the bill’s sponsor, called the discovery one of the most significant breakthroughs of the past century.
“As a result, so many lives have been saved,” he said.
The Senate passed it 34-0 on Thursday, after it cleared the Assembly last month without opposition. If the bill (S1729) is signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy, New Jersey would become the second state in the U.S. with its own microbe. The other is Oregon.
Streptomyces griseus, a soil-based microorganism, was discovered in New Jersey in 1916 by Dr. Selman Waksman and Dr. Roland Curtis. Waksman, along with Dr. Albert Schatz and Elizabeth Bugie, would lead a team of Rutgers scientists to create streptomycin, the world’s first antibiotic for tuberculosis, in 1955, according to the bill.
Tuberculosis was at the time the second-leading cause of death in the U.S., the bill said, adding that that within 10 years of the antibiotic’s public release, the tuberculosis mortality rate fell from 194 deaths per people in 1900 to 9.1 deaths per 100,000 people in 1955.
“Few people are aware of the enduring social value of Schatz, Bugie, and Waksman’s research, as penicillin has overshadowed streptomycin as the twentieth century’s greatest antibiotic discovery,” the bill said.
“It is altogether fitting and proper to renew the public’s awareness of this historic achievement, and New Jersey’s role in combating tuberculosis.”
Samantha Marcus may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @samanthamarcus. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.