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How honey may beat infection

Tuesday September 8th, 2009

Container of honeyManuka honey could hold the key to destroying the hospital "super-bug" MRSA, researchers reported yesterday.

The honey has long been thought to have powerful anti-bacterial properties - and new British research is starting to show how.

Scientists at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff have found that Manuka honey's anti-bacterial properties were a result of its ability to destroy bacterial proteins, not just because of sugars present.

The work, led by Dr Rowena Jenkins, is being presented at the Society for General Microbiology's meeting at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh this week.

She told delegates that if they can discover exactly how the honey inhibits MRSA it could be used as a first line of treatment.

The discovery came after researchers grew meticillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in a laboratory and treated it with and without manuka honey for four hours. An experiment was also carried out with sugar syrup to determine if the effects seen were due to sugar content in honey alone.

The bacterial cells were broken and the proteins isolated and separated on a system that displayed each protein as an individual spot.

They found far fewer proteins from the manuka honey-treated MRSA cells and that Fabl - a protein needed for fatty acid biosynthesis - was completely missing.

The absence of these proteins in honey-treated cells could help explain how manuka honey killed MRSA, explained Dr Jenkins.

"Manuka and other honeys have been known to have wound healing and anti-bacterial properties for some time," she added.

* Stronger bone implants could be created by using bacteria that make bone minerals, the conference has heard.

The bacteria manufacture the chemical hydroxyapatite(HA), used routinely to coat implants, and can create a bio-film, the conference of the Society for General Microbiology heard.

The new technique could improve the efficiency of HA coating by getting into hidden surfaces in the bone, accordiong to experts.

Research led by Professor Lynne Macaski, of the University of Birmingham's Unit of Functional Bionanomaterials, showed that a biocoating method using dried bio-film led to HA coatings sticking to surfaces far more effectively than fresh bio-film.

Researchers used Serratia bacteria, observing that it stuck tightly to surfaces such as titanium alloy, polypropylene, porous glass and polyurethane foam by forming a bio-film layer containing biopolymers that acted as a strong glue.

A micro-manipulation technique used showed that dried bio-film stuck 20 times more tightly than fresh bio-film.

When coated with HA, the adhesion was several times stronger. Slightly roughening the surface made the bioglue much more effective, said Professor Macaski.

Presenting her work to the Society for General Microbiology's meeting at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, this week, she said the biocoating method reached all the hidden surfaces because the bacteria could "swim" into hidden nooks and crannies.

"The bacteria are destroyed by heating, leaving just the HA stuck to the surface with their own glue, rather akin to a burnt milk- saucepan," said Professor Macaskie.

"We need to do more work actually to turn the materials into materials we can use in biomedicine and the environment. Then they need to be tested in real life situations with clinical and environmental trials."

Tags: Diet & Food | MRSA & Hygiene | Orthopaedics | UK News

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