March 17, 2014
Could Honey Help Combat Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria?
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
The serious and rapidly growing problem of resistance to antibiotics could have a very sweet solution, according to research presented during the 247th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) at the Dallas Convention Center on Sunday.According to Dr. Susan M. Meschwitz, an assistant chemistry professor at Salve Regina University in Rhode Island, and her colleagues, honey – which is sometimes used by medical professionals as a topical dressing – could help combat these pathogens in several different ways.
“The unique property of honey lies in its ability to fight infection on multiple levels, making it more difficult for bacteria to develop resistance,” Meschwitz said in a statement. For example, research has demonstrated that honey can inhibit the formation of biofilms, which are communities of slimy disease-causing bacteria.
In addition, she explained that the substance can actively kill the microbes using several different types of weapons, including by using its high sugar concentration to have an osmotic effect, siphoning water from the bacterial cells, causing them to become dehydrated and killing them.
“Honey may also disrupt quorum sensing, which weakens bacterial virulence, rendering the bacteria more susceptible to conventional antibiotics,” Meschwitz said. Quorum sensing is the method by which bacteria communicate with each other. It could play a role in the formation of biofilms, and in some types of bacteria, it also controls the release of toxins that could have an impact on the disease-causing ability of the pathogens.
Unlike antibiotics, she explained that honey does not target the essential growth processes of bacteria. This gives the sweet substance an advantage because targeting those processes causes the microbes to build up their resistance to the treatment.
Furthermore, honey is also filled with several different types of antioxidants, including phenolic acids, caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid and ellagic acid. “Several studies have demonstrated a correlation between the non-peroxide antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of honey and the presence of honey phenolics,” Meschwitz said.
She added that multiple laboratory and limited clinical studies have supported the antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties of honey. Meschwitz also noted that her team of investigators have conducted their own research and found evidence of the antibacterial and antioxidant properties of honey.
“We have run standard antioxidant tests on honey to measure the level of antioxidant activity,” she said. “We have separated and identified the various antioxidant polyphenol compounds. In our antibacterial studies, we have been testing honey's activity against E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, among others.”
In September 2013, the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” are responsible for approximately 23,000 deaths in the US each year, and that at least two million people fall ill annually due to these bacterial infections. It was the first time that the agency released statistics addressing the impact of antibiotic-resistant germs on human health.