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Could honey ward off bacterial infections?

Posted on the 24th April 2023

Honey Bees Treatment

As concerns grow over an increase in drug-resistant infections, could honey be a viable alternative?

Honey has been used for thousands of years to treat wounds, but scientists are now using it in the search for alternatives to antimicrobial drugs.

It comes as new data published in the Lancet has revealed that over 1.2 million people died around the world in 2019 as a result of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.

With antibiotic resistance being described as a major threat to global human health, researchers at Cardiff University are now exploring the potential of honey to fight off infections.

Over the years, the indiscriminate overuse of antibiotics has caused bacteria to develop resistance to them, resulting in the evolution of some strains of microbes that have become much harder to eliminate.

This, in turn, has led to higher medical costs, prolonged hospital stays and increased mortality.

As fears mount that we could well be returning to a pre-antibiotic stage, scientists are looking at the benefits of traditional remedies as utilized by previous generations.

Earlier this year, it was reported that both plants and maggots are being studied as potential sources in the development of new antibacterial drugs.

Speaking about the work at Cardiff University, Prof Les Baillie said:

“We're seeing bacteria that has evolved, that is resistant to almost all antibiotics, and we are reaching the stage where the cupboard is empty.

“Before antibiotics, we used herbal and traditional remedies to treat diseases.

“We have gone back to these traditional remedies to see if we can learn from our ancestors.”

The team is looking at the various compounds found in honey and uncovering which ones are antimicrobial.

These will then be isolated and used to create new remedies to deal with health problems. The researchers are currently testing various samples of honey to see which plants the bees have visited during their working lives.

Using technology, they can see if the bees went to a plant which had an antibiotic. When scientists have discovered the plant, they then analyse its compounds.

The honey is being used as a ‘drug discovery tool’ in the search for new antibiotics. At the moment, they are looking closely at dandelions, as they contain compounds that can kill bacteria and viruses.

Related: Reducing cholesterol – honey could provide the sweet spot

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