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Thursday, 21 November, 2002, 07:00 GMT
Honey 'weapon against superbugs'
Honeybee
Bees may hold the key against bugs such as MRSA
Scientists claim to have discovered that honey can be used as a natural remedy to hospital infection "superbugs" which are resistant to strong antibiotics.

The research team from Cardiff University and the University of Waikato in New Zealand believes the combination of honey's high sugar content and its syrupy texture would act as a natural barrier to bacteria entering wounds.

The tests could have a major impact on the way hospitals tackle outbreaks of bugs, such as MRSA, which have infected 3,000 patients so far this year.

bees on sunflower
Enzymes in bees or pollen could be the source

Earlier this year, scientists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign published research showing honey contained antioxidants, which are beneficial in lowering cholesterol.

The Centre of Bio Medical Sciences in Cardiff has conducted tests on bacteria gathered from infected patients and from hospitals, which proved highly resistant to antibiotics.

Project leader Dr Rose Cooper led the two-year research programme, using tests involving pasture honey and Manuka honey, from New Zealand, in treating ulcers and abscesses.

Health-giving

They discovered the high sugar content slowed bacterial growth, while the honey's texture acted as a seal against outside infection of wounds.

In its undiluted form, honey had the effect of killing off bacteria, which researchers believe could be linked to enzymes in the bees themselves or present in pollen.

But the so-called discovery would not have been news to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who were aware of honey's health-giving properties.

With the emergence of antibiotics in the 1950s as a means of killing off infection, centuries of knowledge were overridden by the need for modern drugs to tackle infections.

But in recent years, the medical profession has become alarmed at the resistance of bugs to even the strongest antibiotics.

Dr Cooper's research shows there may be grounds for further examination of honey's healing properties.

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Beekeeper Wyn Jones
"It's been used since the time of ancient man"
See also:

19 Aug 02 | Health
19 Feb 02 | Health
16 May 00 | UK
09 Apr 01 | Science/Nature
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