In the aftermath of your Thanksgiving feast, as you’re lying on the couch in a heap, your belt undone and your eyes glazed over, why not stop to consider how valuable turkeys can be while they’re still alive? Deliciousness isn’t their only virtue, after all.

In a study published in the Journal of Bacteriology, a group of microbiologists from Brigham Young University have found a key strain of good bacteria in turkeys acts as a powerful antibiotic against staph infections, strep throat, severe gastrointestinal diseases, and roughly half of all infectious bacteria. Despite the antibiotic’s currently low prominence, due to its complex structure, the researchers believe all that might change with their latest breakthroughs.

“The good bacteria we’re studying has been keeping turkey farms healthy for years and it has the potential to keep humans healthy as well,” said BYU microbiologist and co-author Joel Griffitts in a press statement.

For three decades, the strain of bacteria in use for the current research — Strain 115 — was locked away in a freezer. After retired BYU microbiologist and professor Marcus Jensen set the strain aside, turning his sights on other fields of research, the specimen stayed locked up until graduate student Philip Bennallack decided to revisit the research. The team relied on mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, two types of imaging methods that rely on the relationship between matter and energy, and their findings bode well for our gobbling friends.

Within Strain 115 is a compact DNA molecule, better known as a plasmid. These plasmids act as an engine to produce antibiotics as well as a key protective agent. “It’s sort of like outfitting a car with special tires that protect against unusual road hazards,” Griffitts said. The special protection is actually an extra ribosome, which keeps the initial ribosome immune.

Some may be reluctant to adopt the model. Antibiotic use has faced some resistance as of late, both in theory and in practice. What began as a reliable way to combat bacterial infections became a worrisome practice fraught with overuse. In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report claiming three specific germs posed an urgent threat to U.S. health because of such overuse: Clostridium difficile, Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, and drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

But while bacterial infections have seen an antibiotic surge, the latest researchers are confident their rediscovery of Strain 115 will help diminish some of the most severe illnesses people face. Given its rarity, they speculate it’s unlikely bacteria have had enough exposure to the antibiotic to grow resistant. Jensen’s original finding may see a rebirth as the researchers delve back into his original investigation.

“Sometimes bacteria retire with the people who discover them,” Griffitts said. “We simply rediscovered it and now we are capitalizing on it once again.”

Source: Bennallack P, Burt S, Heder M, Robison R, Griffitts J. Characterization of a Novel Plasmid-Borne Thiopeptide Gene Cluster in Staphylococcus epidermidis Strain 115. Journal of Bacteriology. 2014.