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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 June, 2004, 00:22 GMT 01:22 UK
Candles 'can smoke out bacteria'
Lindsey Gaunt and Sabrina Higgins
The researchers are planning further studies
The traditional candle could become the latest weapon against harmful bacteria.

Researchers from the University of Southampton have found that adding essential oils, like eucalyptus, orange and thyme to candles can destroy bugs.

Dr Lindsey Gaunt and Sabrina Higgins said adding these oils to plug-in devices had a similar effect.

The researchers told a conference in Tokyo that adding oils to candles could be as effective as scrubbing with disinfectants.

'Kills bugs'

Their tests found that some oils can destroy bacteria like Escherichia Coli and Staphylococcus aureas on surfaces.

Thousands of people are infected with Escherichia Coli each year. It is a leading cause of food-borne illness.

It proves what we've been saying for a very long time
Susan Ager,
While most people recover after a few days, it can lead to kidney failure and death for others.

It is sometimes found in undercooked meat, raw milk and in sewage-contaminated water.

Staphylococcus aureas are commonly carried on the skin. However, they can cause infections if the skin is broken. These range from boils and pimples to pneumonia.

The superbug MRSA is Staphylococcus aureas, which is resistant to a type of penicillin normally used to kill it.

The researchers said further tests were needed to see if adding essential oils to candles could fight the superbug.

"We have only tested against standard laboratory strains of bacteria," said Dr Gaunt. "We haven't looked at MRSA."

The researchers believe that the oils react with ions in the wick and with oxygen to take on anti-bacterial properties.

They said adding these essential oils to candles could help people to kill bacteria lurking in their homes.

"I don't think there would be any harm in doing that," Dr Gaunt told BBC News Online.

"But I wouldn't advise people to stop using other methods to keep their homes clean and candles won't get rid of dirt or grease."

Susan Ager, who runs an aromatherapy school in Essex, backed the findings.

"It proves what we've been saying for a very long time," she told BBC News Online.

"These essential oils used correctly have great benefits - not just to be used on the body but around the house for hygiene."

Lead candles 'pose health risk'
13 Feb 03  |  Health

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