Ancient potion fights superbug
A 1,000-year-old remedy found in the one of the oldest medical textbooks may be effective in treating MRSA, the sometimes deadly staph infection. That’s what researchers at the University of Nottingham in the U.K. are saying after experimenting with an ancient potion that includes garlic, onion or leek, wine and bile from a cow’s stomach and was recommended to treat eye infections.
MRSA is spread through skin-to-skin contact and can lead to skin and bloodstream infections, such as pneumonia. In 2011, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates, MRSA was responsible for 80,461 infections and 11,285 deaths in the U.S. Medical experts say it’s become more difficult to treat because many modern antibiotics are losing their effectiveness against such “superbugs.”
For this study, the researchers consulted a medical recipe from Bald’s Leechbook, a 10th century Old English manuscript. The potion was to be brewed in a brass vessel, strained for purification, and left to sit for nine days before being directly applied to the infection.The scientists followed the instructions, making four batches to test on artificial infected wounds. First they tested each of the ingredients separately on the wounds, with little to no effect. But when they mixed the ingredients together, they discovered that 90 percent of the bacteria died.
Secondly, the researchers tried diluting the potion before applying it to wounds to see how much would be needed to treat an infection. They found that diluting it until it was unable to kill the bacteria disrupted communication between bacteria cells, an important discovery because bacteria cells need to communicate with each other in order to destroy tissue.
This concoction was developed well before the modern understanding of germ theory, which suggests there was a systemic approach to developing medicine even then.
Future research will look at other ancient remedies to test their effectiveness on modern medical conditions.