Honey may find use in eradicating life-threatening lung infections
People with cystic fibrosis are vulnerable to potentially fatal Mycobacterium abscessus lung infections, which are notoriously difficult to treat. A new treatment may succeed where others have failed, however – and it utilizes antibacterial honey.
Mycobacterium abscessus bacteria most often infect the lungs of people with cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis or other chronic lung diseases. The infection causes scarring, thickening of tissue or formation of cavities in the lungs, which may result in respiratory failure if not treated.
Unfortunately, due to the bacteria's thick cell walls, they're resistant to the effects of existing antibiotics. As a result, large dosages of the drugs are required over long periods of time, producing unpleasant side effects. Even then, the infection is usually just kept at bay, as opposed to being completely eliminated.
Seeking a more effective alternative, scientists from Britain's Aston University looked to Manuka honey.
Although honey in general has been known for its healing qualities since ancient times, Manuka honey is particularly potent. This is because, along with the hydrogen-peroxide-producing chemicals that are present in all types of honey, it also contains an antibacterial compound known as methylglyoxal.
For their study, the researchers obtained Mycobacterium abscessus bacteria from 16 infected patients, and placed those samples in a lab-based lung model. The scientists then used a nebulizer (which produces a fine spray of inhalable liquid) to administer a mixture of Manuka honey and the commonly used antibiotic amikacin.
It was found that in order for the mixture to kill all the bacteria, an amikacin dosage of just 2 micrograms per milliliter was required. By contrast, when the drug is administered by traditional means, the usual effective dosage is 16 micrograms per milliliter.
"By combining a totally natural ingredient such as Manuka honey with amikacin, one of the most important yet toxic drugs used for treating Mycobacterium abscessus, we have found a way to potentially kill off these bacteria with eight times less drug than before," said team member Dr. Jonathan Cox. "This has the potential to significantly reduce amikacin-associated hearing loss and greatly improve the quality of life of so many patients – particularly those with cystic fibrosis."
It is hoped that human clinical trials may soon commence. A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Microbiology.
Source: Aston University