AncientBiotics — medieval medicine conquers MRSA superbug

AncientBiotics — medieval medicine conquers MRSA superbug

A one thousand year old Anglo-Saxon remedy for eye infections which originates from a manuscript in the British Library has been found to kill the modern-day superbug MRSA.

The issue

Bacterial infections are a major threat to human health, and we are running out of antibiotics to treat them. Bacteria have evolved resistance to many drugs in our medical armoury, and there are increasingly few new antibiotics in development.

The research

In an unusual research collaboration Dr Christina Lee, an Anglo-Saxon expert from the School of English, has enlisted the help of microbiologists from the University’s Centre for Biomolecular Sciences to recreate a 10th century potion for eye infections from Bald’s Leechbook. This is an Old English leather-bound volume in the British Library, and the goal was to see if it really works as an antibacterial remedy.

The impact

Early results on the “potion”, tested in vitro at The University of Nottingham and backed up by mouse-model tests at Texas Tech are, in the words of US collaborator Dr Kendra Rumbaugh, “astonishing”. The solution has had remarkable effects on Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) which is one of the most antibiotic-resistant bugs costing modern health services billions.

The team now has good, replicated data showing that Bald’s eye salve kills up to 90% of MRSA bacteria in in vivo wound biopsies from mouse models. They believe the bactericidal effect of the recipe is not due to a single ingredient but the combination used and brewing methods/container material used. Further research is planned to investigate how and why this works.

Global Research Theme
Cultures and Communication

Global Research Theme
Health and Wellbeing

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