Penicillium Rubens Designated The 'Official State Microbe of Illinois'

Penicillium Rubens Designated The ‘Official State Microbe of Illinois’

Hand in blue glove holds petri dish with Penicillium fungi.

We are not making this up, as Dave Barry used to say.

Penicillium Rubens soon will be the Official State Microbe of Illinois.

According to a state of Illinois news release, Gov. JB Pritzker signed legislation that builds on the legacy of unsung hero Mary K. Hunt and designates Penicillium Rubens as the official state microbe of Illinois. The governor also signed legislation which adds agricultural sciences and agricultural education as an option to fulfill the coursework requirements for university admission.

Mary Hunt (CREDIT: Wikipedia)

HB 1879 designated penicillium rubens NRRL 1951 as the official state microbe of Illinois. The designation recognizes the contribution of Mary K. Hunt, also known as Moldy Mary, and the Northern Regional Research Library — now known as the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research. Due to their research and work, penicillin’s yield soared at a time when demand was high all across the world.

“It’s no secret that penicillin production is an achievement Peoria takes great pride in – but as of today, it becomes a point of pride for all of Illinois, with new status as our official state microbe,” Pritzker said. “The additional legislation will help Illinois not lose any more Marys to history by recognizing the value of agricultural science in our education system for students of all backgrounds. By supporting our young learners who want to take ag sciences through to a university education — and beyond — Illinois is diversifying what it means to learn, to grow, to innovate – and to set the stage for our future generations to live their dreams.”

“By making penicillium rubens our state microbe, we commemorate the contribution that Peoria made to worldwide health and medicine,” said state Sen. David Koehler (D-Peoria). “Nearly a century ago, our National Agriculture Utilization Laboratory discovered a microbe that has been saving lives from disease since—a historic feat worth recognizing and remembering.”

Agricultural Sciences as Course Option

HB 3218 and SB 1624 add agricultural sciences as a course option for the science category and agricultural education as a course option for the elective category as part of the required high school coursework for university admission. This expansion of agricultural education options was made possible by students, teachers, FFA clubs, and lawmakers working to ensure high school students in Illinois can access the tools they need to continue our proud Illinois agriculture tradition.

“The study of agriculture is vitally important, and our curricula should reflect that,” said state Sen. Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago). “Its exclusion as an option of course study for admission did students who plan to one day work in the field a huge disservice. There a wide variety of subjects taught in agriculture, whether it be math, economics, biochemistry and more. I’m proud of the work done to expand studying options as every course should be considered equal for our students and their studies.”

“Agriculture is not only the driving force of our economy in Illinois, but also part of our culture and history for many generations,” said state Rep. Lance Yednock (D-Ottawa). “Agricultural education plays an enormous role in high school for many students across our state, and that experience and knowledge deserves to be recognized when a student decides to pursue higher education in Illinois.”

HB 1879, HB 3218 and SB 1624 are effective Jan. 1, 2022.

SOURCE: state of Illinois news release