According to scientists at the University of Wales in Cardiff, the experiments conducted in the laboratory showed that honey can clear the bacteria found in festering wounds and contaminated surfaces in hospitals.
As explained by Professor Rose Cooper, who presented their study at the annual conference of the Society for General Microbiology, held in Harrogate, England, honey seems to work breaking down the defenses bacteria use against antibiotics.
So says the researcher, honey can be a useful way to combat infections such as MRSA superbugs resistant to methicillin (MRSA). The researchers studied the manuka honey, which is derived from bees that collect nectar from New Zealand manuka tree.
It has long been known antiseptic powers of honey and has been used for thousands of years in different civilizations as a treatment for wounds. Today, a purified form of manuka honey, in particular, has long included in medicines sold in pharmacies worldwide for wound healing.
However, so far not known precisely what the mechanisms that give the honey its antimicrobial properties and so the product has not been adequately exploited. To understand these mechanisms Professor Cooper and his team investigated how honey interacts with three types of bacteria that commonly infect wounds.
These are: Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Group A streptococcus and Staphylococcus aureus resistant to methicillin.
The researchers found that honey can prevent adhesion of pseudomonas and streptococcus tissue, which is an essential step in the initiation of acute infections. By avoiding this adherence is also blocked the formation of biofilms, which are thin layers that protect the microbe of antibiotics and enable cause persistent infections.
And the study says Professor Cooper, "also showed that honey can make MRSA more sensitive to antibiotics such as oxacillin, which means that managed to reverse resistance to these drugs." "This indicates that existing antibiotics may be more effective against resistant infections when using a drug combination with manuka honey."
"What we need to do now is to study these combinations and conduct clinical trials in patients," adds the researcher. "Honey can be applied locally in the wound or in combination with the antibiotic used to treat resistant infections."
Professor Cooper warns, however, that people should not try to heal at home with honey bought in the supermarket.
"This is an alternative unhygienic and not recommended. What we have been discussing in our studies is a medical grade honey (purified), not the product that you buy in the stores," he says. The finding, experts say, could lead to increased clinical use of honey at a time when the world faces the threat of a shortage of powerful antibiotics to combat the growing resistance of bacteria.
"The use of topical agents like honey to eradicate bacteria from wounds is potentially cheaper and may improve antibiotic therapy in the future" says the researcher. "And this will help to reduce the transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria from a wound colonized patients more susceptible," he adds.
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