Monday, August 21, 2006

Honey as an Aternative to Atibiotics

By Thijs Westerbeek, Radio Netherlands, 8/21/2006

Click to listen to this edition of the Research File

Honey is already being used as standard issue medication in the treatment of wounds. Recently, a honey-based ointment has been introduced on the market, which is remarkably effective on slow-healing wounds that resist normal treatment. The honey in this special ointment has an anti-microbial and soothing effect and also keeps the bandages from sticking to the wound.

This ointment has been developed by the Dutch company Bfactory, an enterprise which closely cooperates with the University of Wageningen. Dr Tineke Creemers, General Manager of Bfactory, explains what standards honey has to meet to be acceptable as regular medicine:

"The trick is to make sure the honey is the same quality at all times and that its enzyme levels are as high as possible. This is because the natural enzymes in the honey give it its anti-bacterial properties. Furthermore, doctors cannot use a medicine that varies in strength, hence the need for constant quality."

While the researchers at the AMC agree that honey-based wound dressing is a success, they now intend to take another step forward; using honey as an effective alternative for antibiotics, especially in the treatment of bacterial infections of the stomach and the lower intestines. As researcher Dr Paul Kwakman explains:

"There is an end to the use of antibiotics. Resistance is becoming an ever bigger problem so we really are desperate for an alternative".

Dr Kwakman is lucky in that several plant species have pollen that naturally contains very special proteins. These proteins closely resemble peptides, human proteins that play a crucial role in our natural defences against illness. Through genetic modification, these plants can be made to produce proteins identical to human peptides. When bees then make honey from this genetically modified pollen, the peptides end up in that honey and are perfectly preserved…

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