Discovery by Turkish high school student may find effective way to treat nosocomial infections

emAA Photo/em
AA Photo

A Turkish high school student, who saw his grandfather suffer from a hospital-acquired infection, conducted laboratory tests on the medicinal properties of the Mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus) and was able to prove that it contains antimicrobial substances that are effective against Staphylococcus Aureus, a bacteria commonly found in hospital infections.

When Bora Çetin, a tenth grade student of Bornova Anadolu High School in Izmir, read an article on the protection and possible commercial uses of the Mastic tree growing in the environments of Izmir, he started wondering about the possible medicinal properties of the plant. He remembered, as he said, how his grandfather had been hospitalized for a heart condition and had suffered additional discomfort from a hospital infection.

Çetin, who was deeply affected by this experience, wanted to know whether the plant could be used in patients developing pressure sores and additional infections, a condition common especially with the elderly and the disabled. He told the Anadolu Agency: "I thought that it would be possible to use the Mastic tree as medicine and put it to commercial use, helping both people to get well and protecting the tree."

Bora Çetin and his highschool friend Ebru Çölgeçen then set out to test the antimicrobial properties of the Mastic tree in the laboratory of Osmangazi University in Eskişehir. Test results showed that a substance obtained from the tree was able to kill bacterium Staphylococcus Aureus, which is responsible for a larger number of hospital infections. As their teacher explains, the results of the study would still have to be tested on life patients; if an active pharmaceutical ingredient could be obtained, this would mean both commercial gains and an important contribution for the protection of the plant species.

Their successful studies enabled the two teenagers advance into the finals of the "Aziz Sancar Fen Bilimleri Yarışması" (Nobel Laureate Aziz Sancar Competition in Life Sciences) and qualified them to take part in international project competitions. In July, they will present their results at the Youth Science Meeting in Portugal, and in August they will participate in Expo Science International in Brazil. Çölgeçen said she was very proud to be able to represent her country abroad: "We are going to portray an endemic plant belonging to our country. This is something very important."

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