In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, which was arguably the most important medical breakthrough in history. Penicillin is an antibiotic, which means it can kill bacteria. Fleming's discovery let doctors treat and cure infected patients and saved millions of lives.
But our dependence on antibiotics came back to haunt us. The more we used an antibiotic, the more resistant to it bacteria would become, and the less effective the antibiotic would be. Scientists developed newer and stronger antibiotics, but bacteria developed resistances to them too. Less than a century after Fleming's discovery there are precious few antibiotics left and so-called "superbugs" that are already resistant to all of them.
Our current antibiotics are rapidly approaching their expiration date, so it's up to scientists to try and find new ones. A recent claims that a group of scientists have done just that, identifying a new antibiotic from a toxin produced by soil bacteria.
Soil bacteria is the source for most of our antibiotics, as the low-nutrient soil forces different bacteria species to fight with each other for survival. This new bacteria species produces a toxin called pseudouridimycin (PUM), which is deadly to several other species of bacteria, including many superbugs.
In a lab test in mice, PUM killed around 20 other types of bacteria, particularly bacteria that cause strep and staph infections. More importantly, it appears to be harmless to humans, and there's good reason to believe that harmful bacteria won't be as quick to develop a resistance to it as they were to other antibiotics.
With luck, PUM will move to clinical trials sometime in the next few years, and be available within a decade. PUM won't solve the superbug problem on its own, but it will keep us afloat for much longer.