Illinois names official state microbe with claim to fame in Peoria

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The cardinal is the official state bird of Illinois, and now there is an official state microbe.

Penicillium rubens was first mass produced at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria in 1943. As the story goes, a moldy cantaloupe purchased from a market in Peoria held the ideal strain. The ramping up of the penicillin production is considered one of the most successful achievements in American chemistry, according to the USDA.

The bill, naming the strain as the official state microbe, was initially brought about by State Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria) in 2019. It passed the General Assembly on May 31 by unanimous vote.

State Sen. Dave Koehler said the bill was in the works for a while, and he’s glad its finally passed.

“I told the legislature this is the moment we’ve been waiting for, because now we’re going to pass this bill, penicillium rubens, the official state microbe and I think it speaks well to what significance the Ag Lab in Peoria has had, really in the world’s health,” he said.

The bill now goes to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s desk for his signature.

Oregon was the first state to declare an official state microbe in 2013, followed by New Jersey in 2019.

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