Garlic Substance Can Help Give Antibiotics A Boost When Fighting Resistant Bacteria
February 19, 2014

Can Garlic Help Combat Treatment-Resistant Forms Of Bacteria?

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A substance found in garlic can help combat even the most aggressive and treatment-resistant strains of bacteria, a doctoral candidate from the University of Copenhagen has discovered as part of a PhD thesis on the beneficial properties of the odoriferous plant and commonly-used culinary ingredient.

The discovery, which was made by Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences student Tim Holm Jakobsen, comes as aggressive multi-resistant infections represent an increasing health risk to the global population. Given that bacteria are becoming more and more resistant to treatments, there is tremendous demand for new ways to help people overcome these maladies.

“We know that there is a potent chemical compound in the garlic plant that neutralizes resistant bacteria by paralyzing their communication system,” Jakobsen, who will be defending his thesis on Friday, explained in a statement Tuesday. “My PhD thesis demonstrates that ajoene – the substance present in garlic – specifically prevents the bacteria from secreting the toxin rhamnolipid which destroys white blood cells in the body.”

“White blood cells are indispensable because they play a crucial role in the immune defense system, not only warding off infection, but also killing bacteria,” he added. “Ajoene supports and improves treatment with conventional antibiotics. We have clearly demonstrated this on biofilm cultivated in the laboratory and in trials involving mice.”

Biofilm occurs when bacteria clump together to form a tough film made of organic materials, making them resistant to antibiotics. Scientists have been focusing specifically on a type of bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which has been known to cause infections in chronic leg ulcer patients and in the lungs of those with cystic fibrosis.

“When we add antibiotics to biofilm they have very little effect, and ajoene alone barely makes any difference. It is only when the two are combined that something significant happens,” Jakobsen explained. A combination treatment featuring both ajoene and antibiotics was found to kill over 90 percent of the normally virulent biofilm.

The ajoene works by clocking the communication system, known as Quorum Sensing, which is used by the bacteria for all purposes including for creating infection. This garlic substance is the latest natural substance demonstrated to be effective in creating various medical conditions, joining taxol from the yew tree (which is used to treat breast cancer) and artemisinin from sweet wormwood (which has been proven effective against malaria.)

Likewise, research published earlier this month in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found that carvacrol – the substance in oregano oil that gives pizza its distinctive aroma – is an effective weapon against the norovirus by breaking down the tough, protective exterior of the pathogen that causes vomiting and diarrhea.

Unfortunately, as Jacobsen points out, “garlic contains so little ajoene that you would need to eat around 50 a day to achieve the desired effect. This means we have to pick up the ball from Mother Nature and run with it.” He is hoping that pharmaceutical companies will consider producing the substance.

“There’s a lot of money in pharmaceuticals for treating chronic illnesses such as diabetes, but if we are to win the race against bacteria, we need to bring new antibiotics into play. Nature is a great starting point for developing medicines – two-thirds of all new pharmaceuticals are based on natural substances,” he added.