The Sydney Morning Herald, 6/17/2009
Australian researchers have identified a type of bacteria-blasting honey capable of taking on the superbugs that have infected the nation's hospitals.
It's well known that honey has anti-bacterial properties but scientists from the University of Sydney say a particular type derived from native tea tree is especially potent.
They believe it could offer a solution to the growing resistance of bacteria, such as the superbug known as MRSA, to conventional antibiotics.
"Most bacteria that cause infections in hospitals are resistant to at least one antibiotic and there is an urgent need for new ways to treat and control surface infections," says Associate Professor Dee Carter, of the university's School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences.
"But bugs that are resistant to a huge variety of antibiotics are not resistant to honey ... we've never seen an organism that has any kind of intrinsic resistance."
Dr Carter, working alongside Dr Shona Blair, tested honey produced by bees that fed on Leptospermum, commonly known as tea tree.
She said the honey worked against bacteria in a number of ways.
It was a bad growth environment for bacteria because it was mildly acidic with high sugar levels.
It also contained a precursor chemical to hydroperoxide and the molecule methylglyoxal, both toxic to bacterial cells.
And the honey appeared to have properties, not yet understood, which prevented bacteria from developing a resistance despite tests designed to induce such a response.
In particular, staphylococcus bacteria - such as MRSA or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus - were "very sensitive" to the honey and seemed to suffer "multi-system failures," Dr Carter said.
"Our research is the first to clearly show these honey-based products could, in many cases, replace antibiotic creams on wounds and equipment such as catheters," she said...