Ancient remedy proves shockingly effective against drug resistant bacteria
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is a terrible thing. It’s a bacteria that resist drugs, and there is no single known cure or treatment for it.
Doctors and medical researchers all around the world continue to invest billions while looking to the future of medical science for a way to defeat the superbug. As it turns out though, the answer may be in the past.
According to the LA Times, a researcher in England wondered what would happen if she tested out some old treatments found within a book that is at least 1,000 years old. Unsurprisingly, it’s kind of disgusting. Surprisingly, it actually works. And not just kind of works, but works so well that it eradicates a bug that even the most powerful drugs haven’t been able to touch.
Recipes from Bald’s Leechbook
Vikings Studies Professor Christina Lee at the University of Nottingham was curious about ancient remedies, so she translated an eye salve found in a book called “Bald’s Leechbook.” The recipe book was written in Old English, but the salve was much older.
To create the salve, herbalists of old would begin with a brass vessel of some sort. In it, they would create the remedy by adding the bile of a cow’s stomach and a plant from the garlic family known as Allium. The ancient herbalists would then apply that salve to inflamed eyes.
Lee decided to take the recipe to chemists at her university’s Center of Bimolecular Science. They apparently had an excessive amount of cow bile and time on their hands, so they said what the hell and gave it a try.
The chemists followed the recipe exactly, then set an experiment to test it. Four batches were created, with a fifth acting as the control. MSRA was then introduced into the batches. The results were shocking. Out of 1,000 bacterial cells, 999 were destroyed.
The experiment was then continued with mice containing infected wounds. The ancient salve destroyed 90-percent of the bacteria.
“Absolutely blown away”
The tests were overseen by Nottingham microbiologist Freya Harrison, who was already working with different methods to fight off the drug-resistant bacteria. Previous research has shown that copper and bile salts have some effects on the bacteria, and certain plants in the garlic family have also been proven to stop the bacteria’s ability to damage tissue. Harrison assumed the two might have show “a small amount of antibiotic activity.” Following the experiments though, she stated that she was “absolutely blown away.”
The salve was so effective that the researchers decided to dilute it to test it. Even when the diluted salve didn’t outright destroy the bacteria, it still managed to disrupt the communication between the bacterial cells.
Interfering with this communication is frequently seen as potential path towards an effective treatment, but so far no single treatment, or even a combination of treatments has proven as effective as the ancient remedy.
Of course, a few quick tests aren’t enough evidence to recycle the lab equipment and roll back a thousand years of medical advancements. It is enough to launch a new field of medical research though, known as AncientBiotics. The researchers will use modern techniques to analyze and test ancient, and probably horrible remedies to see if the herbalists of yesterday were lucky, or if they knew something we didn’t.