60-Second Science

Manuka Honey Slips Up Some Bacteria

Manuka honey interferes with bacteria infecting a wound by keeping the microbes from attaching to tissue, and even by making antibiotics more effective. Cynthia Graber reports

Honey’s been a medicine since before medicine as we know it even existed. Its use was described on Sumerian clay tablets from nearly 4,000 years ago. Ancient Egyptians made ointments of honey to treat various injuries.

And honey’s been mixed into contemporary medicine as well, as a bacteria fighter. Now scientists have an idea about how honey fights some bacteria—and might help with antibiotic resistance. The work was presented at a Society for General Microbiology conference in England.

The researchers focused on manuka honey from New Zealand. This honey has already been incorporated into treatments for wound care.

The researchers investigated the honey’s activities versus three bacterial species that commonly infect wounds. Turns out that the manuka honey keeps some bacteria from being able to attach themselves to tissue. It also hampers bacteria from forming biofilms, which bacteria use as protection from antibiotics.

They also learned that found that manuka honey can make the dreaded MRSA more susceptible to antibiotics. Which could help reverse the bacteria’s resistance. If these initial findings hold, honey could find a new role as part of a one–two punch of drugs and the sweet stuff to combat infection.

—Cynthia Graber

[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

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