Thursday, April 02, 2015

Early research promising for an ancient remedy to fight MRSA, an antibiotic resistant superbug

Researchers in the United Kingdom reported that an ancient cure might help kill the superbug MRSA, Justin Wm. Moyer reports for The Washington Post. The leading cause of superbugs, organisms that are resistant to some—if not all—antibiotics, like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is the overuse of antibiotics. Scientists have been charged to fight these infections through "technological" means.

 But researchers have recently found that MRSA is "vulnerable to an ancient remedy" made of garlic, some onion or leek, copper, wine and oxgall—or cow’s bile. Garlic and copper continue to be thought of as having antibiotic or antimicrobial properties. “We were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was,” Freya Harrison, one of the researchers from the University of Nottingham, told the BBC, Moyer reports.

The remedy, noted as eye salve, was found in a manuscript written in Old English from the 10th century called "Bald's Leechbook," a well-respected physician's desk reference from that time, Moyer reports. He also notes that not every remedy in the manuscript is credible, like this one from the translation of an Eastern Algo-Saxonist: “In case a man be a lunatic; take skin of a mereswine or porpoise, work it into a whip, swinge the man therewith, soon he will be well. Amen.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated MRSA contributed to the deaths of more than 5,000 people in the United States in 2013, Moyer reports, writing that "some say it could eventually kill more people than cancer."

The  research will be presented at the upcoming Annual Conference of the Society for General Microbiology in Birmingham. Moyer notes that the abstract for the conference cautions that "oxgall was no cure-all." Christina Lee, an associate professor in Viking studies at the University of Nottingham, told Moyer "that it was the combination of ingredients that proved effective against MRSA—which shows that people living in medieval times were not as barbaric as popularly thought."

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