A germ discovered Rutgers University 75 years ago is close to becoming New Jersey's official state microbe.

Microbiologist and Rutgers graduate John Warhol, of The Warhol Institute located near Sandy Hook, explains that "streptomyces griseus is a soil organism and it produces the antibiotic streptomycin."

The antibiotic kills the bacteria that causes tuberculosis, cholera, typhoid and dysentery.

"This one is particularly important for New Jersey because the organism was discovered here in New Jersey in 1943 in New Brunswick in soil at the College of Agriculture Experimental Station. It is our organism, it is the New Jersey bug, and it has saved millions of lives all around the world and it created thousands of jobs."

Warhol also says the microbe helped jump-start the state's huge biological and pharmaceutical industries.

"It is something that we can all look up to and say, 'Hey! That's great! We did that here in New Jersey,'" he said.

Oregon, Wisconsin and Hawaii have designated official state microbes.

He says a group of New Jersey biologists and businessmen began talking to Trenton lawmakers about the possibility of designating an official state microbe. Warhol says he told state Sen. Sam Thompson, R-Middlesex, who introduced the bill.

The enabling legislation's already passed the state Senate and awaits assignment to a committee in the state Assembly.

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Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5

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