1,000-year-old drug kills modern antibiotic-resistant bacteria

(ORDO NEWS) — As deadly bacteria become more resistant to modern antibiotics, some researchers have turned to ancient medical manuscripts for clues.

It looks like a medieval ointment created 1000 years ago could be helpful when many modern antibiotics stop working.

The “ancient biotic,” as the researchers call it, was discovered in one of the earliest known medical textbooks from medieval England, known as Bald’s Leechbook.

Based on previous research, scientists have shown that a blend of natural ingredients – garlic, onions or leeks, cow bile and wine – may well have powerful antiseptic properties. In fact, the ointment is effective against a group of dangerous bacteria that have become resistant to many modern drugs.

After preparing 75 batches of ointment, including 15 with onions and 15 with leeks (to be absolutely sure of the Old English translation), the researchers put the ancient recipe to the test.

The drug has been shown in the past to kill Staphylococcus aureus, the bacterium that causes Staphylococcus aureus. A new study by Jessica Ferner-Pardo of the University of Warwick confirms these findings: even when bacteria formed especially strong structures known as biofilms, the ointment was effective.

S. aureus are particularly resistant bacteria, in large part because they can form biofilms, or, as one researcher noted, “slimy clumps of bacteria … are irreversibly attached to surfaces.” This is what makes staphylococcus aureus so dangerous.

Once these clusters of microorganisms have formed, it is incredibly difficult to inject an antimicrobial agent there. The destruction of biofilm requires concentrations of antibiotics hundreds to thousands of times higher than would be necessary for freely moving forms.

However, if this new research is correct, there is something about Bald’s Leechbook Healing Ointment that biofilms cannot handle.

Even better, the balm works against bacteria with similar resistance, including Acinetobacter baumanii, Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, S. epidermidis, and S. pyogenes, which can infect wounds, form biofilms, and become antibiotic resistant.

But there is one catch: the ingredients in the balm work best as an antimicrobial agent only in the final form of the medicine. When the researchers separated or purified each element, they were not as effective at killing bacterial strains.

“Understanding the relationship between combinations of natural products and antimicrobial activity could create a new way to create new antibiotics from herbal medicines.”

“Most of the antibiotics we use today are derived from natural compounds, but our work emphasizes the need to study not only individual compounds, but also mixtures of natural products to treat biofilm infections.”

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