Cranberry Juice May Stop Staph Infections

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You may know that cranberry juice can be used to help prevent urinary tract infections, but a new study finds that it may also help stop staph infections. The information was presented at a recent American Chemical Society meeting.

Staph infections are caused by staphylococcus bacteria, a germ commonly found in the nose or on the skin of even healthy individuals. In most cases, these bacteria cause no problems or minor skin infections. Sometimes, however, they affect the bloodstream, lungs, heart, or urinary tract and cause infections. Severe staph infections typically occur in people who have a compromised immune system, but otherwise healthy people can also develop life-threatening infections.

While strains of Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) can cause a variety of infections, the one of special concern is methicillin-resistant S. aureus, or MRSA, because it does not respond to most antibiotics. Therefore any new effective treatment is of particular interest.

Cranberry Juice and Staph Infections

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In the current study, Terri Camesano, professor of chemical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and her team enrolled healthy female students to drink either cranberry juice cocktail or a placebo fluid. Urine samples were collected at specific intervals and incubated with several strains of E. coli and a single strain of S. aureus.

An infection occurs after bacteria stick to a host and then accumulate in colonies to form a biofilm. Camesano and her colleagues found that the urine samples from study participants who had consumed cranberry juice showed significantly reduced ability of both E. coli and S. aureus to form biofilms. The finding regarding S. aureus was especially significant because these bacteria are usually very effective at forming biofilms, yet in women who drank the cranberry juice, “we saw essentially no biofilm,” says Camesano.

One mystery for now is how cranberry juice prevents biofilm formation. With E. coli, exposure to cranberry juice causes the hair-like structures on the bacteria to curl up, which prevents the germs from attaching to the urinary tract and causing an infection. S. aureus do not have these structures, “so there must be other reasons why the cranberry juice affects its biofilm formation in the study,” notes Camesano.

If researchers find that cranberry juice truly has the ability to stop staph infections, it could be a significant tool in the fight against MRSA and other staph infections. For now, Camesano explains that “We believe this is an important new area to explore, and we are now thinking about how best to proceed.”

SOURCES:
Mayo Clinic
Worcester Polytechnic Institute news release, Sept. 1, 2010

Updated 10/25/2016

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