Rediscovering the Antibiotics of the Hive
Recent Pat Antiinfect Drug Discov, 2009 Nov 1
Honey and other bee products were subjected to laboratory and clinical investigations during the past few decades and the most remarkable discovery was their antibacterial activity.
Honey has been used since ancient times for the treatment of some diseases and for the healing of wounds but its use as an anti-infective agent was superseded by modern dressings and antibiotic therapy. However, the emergence of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria has confounded the current use of antibiotic therapy leading to the re-examination of former remedies.
Honey, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom have a strong antibacterial activity. Even antibiotic-resistant strains such as epidemic strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Vancomycine resistant Enterococcus (VRE) have been found to be as sensitive to honey as the antibiotic-sensitive strains of the same species.
Sensitivity of bacteria to bee products varies considerably within the product and the varieties of the same product. Botanical origin plays a major role in its antibacterial activity.
Propolis has been found to have the strongest action against bacteria. This is probably due to its richness in flavonoids. The most challenging problems of using hive products for medical purposes are dosage and safety.
Honey and royal jelly produced as a food often are not well filtered, and may contain various particles. Processed for use in wound care, they are passed through fine filters which remove most of the pollen and other impurities to prevent allergies. Also, although honey does not allow vegetative bacteria to survive, it does contain viable spores, including clostridia.
With the increased availability of licensed medical stuffs containing bee products, clinical use is expected to increase and further evidence will become available. Their use in professional care centres should be limited to those which are safe and with certified antibacterial activities. The present article is a short review of recent patents on antibiotics of hives.