Ancient Egyptian Cure May Fight MRSA Infections
Bacterial infections from microbes such as MRSA pose a significant threat to health as many antibiotics are ineffective in treating a growing number of infections. However, scientists recently reveal a new study that tells us that an ancient Egyptian cure may be our best weapon against not just MRSA, but potentially the majority of bacterial infections.
Discover what this cure is and why you should have it in your medicine cabinet.
We are carriers of disease. Although the ancient Egyptians understanding may not have been on the same level of understanding as it is today that one cause of disease such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is as close to us as our skin, they nevertheless understood the importance of fighting off infection.
According to PubMed Health, 1 out of every 4 healthy individuals carries a strain of Staphylococcus aureus on their skin or in their nasal passages. Furthermore, 2 out of every 100 people carry a strain of staph that is resistant to antibiotics.
One of the misconceptions of antibiotic resistance is the belief that failure of an infection to respond to an antibiotic means that the microbe has mutated in some way that makes it resistant to a specific antibiotic or class of antibiotics. However, recent research tells us that this is often not true. Rather, that many types of bacteria produce protective biofilms that thwart an antibiotic’s antimicrobial abilities.
A biofilm is a thin layer of microbes that sticks to the surface of a structure such as a healing wound and is aided by organic polymers the microbes secrete to insure adhesion as well as growth over the wound. Biofilms have relatively recently been shown to form a type of protective barrier against antibiotics.
However, it appears that some natural organic substances have a way of breaking down the protective biofilm barrier and destroying the bacterial colonies in an infection. One natural substance is mentioned in Ancient Egyptian writing dating back 4,000 years that describes the practice of mixing honey on cotton fibers and applying it on wounds as dressings.
The use of honey derived from some types of plants has been in use for a number of years now and is available as a topical ointment to apply directly on a wound. The most common source of honey is “Manuka Honey,” which is produced by bees that collect nectar from the Manuka Bush or Tea Tree (Leptospermum Scoparium) that is indigenous to New Zealand.
Exactly how Manuka honey works is currently under investigation, but it is suspected to contain one or more ingredients with potent antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral, antioxidant, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties.
Honey is a complex substance estimated to be comprised of several hundred components, including fructose, glucose, sucrose and other sugars as well as acids, proteins, amino acids , nitrogen, minerals, and in the case of Manuka honey— methylglyoxal (MGO), which is believed to be crucial toward its antimicrobial properties.
Researchers wanting to gain an understanding of how Manuka honey works on infections decided to perform in-vitro tests on the effect of Manuka honey on Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria that live in the nasopharynx and skin of healthy individuals. S. pyogenes is a common infection problem in patients following surgery and is known for its protective biofilm properties.
The goal of the researchers was to determine whether Manuka honey disrupted the biofilm binding of S. pyogenes to human wound proteins called “fibrinogen” and “fibronectin” that play an important role in the normal wound healing process.
What they found as reported in the Jan. 31, 2012 issue of Microbiology, is that treatment with Manuka honey resulted in not only inhibiting the development of biofilms, but also disrupted established biofilms of S. pyogenes by possibly interrupting the adhesion of tissue ligands related to fibronectin protein found in wound healing. The exact molecular process remains unknown, but is believed to involve a disruption of expression of fibronectin-binding proteins Sof and SfbI from the S. pyogenes bacterium.
The authors concluded that their results add further support to the use of Manuka honey in treating infection from S. pyogenes due to its ability to attack the bacterium’s biofilm.
Their findings lend support to the treatment of other antibiotic resistant microbes with biofilm components such as MRSA and other strains of infectious bacteria. Furthermore, this is yet another example that there is value in investigating medical knowledge and practices from other cultures even as far back as the days of the Ancient Egyptians.
Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia
Reference: “Manuka honey inhibits the development of Streptococcus pyogenes biofilms and causes reduced expression of two fibronectin binding proteins” Microbiology Jan.31, 2012; Sarah E. Maddocks, Marta Salinas Lopez, Richard S. Rowlands and Rose A. Cooper