A Sweet Deal for Antibiotics

Scientists have shown that a concentrated extract of maple syrup has the capacity to make disease-causing bacteria more vulnerable to antibiotics.

Professor Nathalie Tufenkji's group at McGill University in Montreal have shown that a mixture of extracts, called phenolic compounds, work better together with antibiotics at fighting bacteria than antibiotics alone.

Antibiotic resistance is a global problem.

In the European Union (EU) alone, an estimated 400,000 people present each year with a resistant strain and on average 25,000 people die.

A further 5-12% of hospital patients acquire an infection during their stay.

In addition to causing fatalities and increased suffering for hospital patients, antimicrobial resistance is estimated to generate an economic loss to the EU of more than EUR1.5 billion every year.

At a personal level, high antibiotic use disturbs the body's natural bacterial make-up and puts the patients health at risk.

New resistant strains are emerging at a worrying rate that the drugs market is not equipped to compete with.

Researchers tested the maple syrup extract's effect on infection-causing strains of various different bacteria, including E. coli and the urinary tract infecting bacteria P. aeruginosa.

All maple syrups used in the study were purchased at local supermarkets and kept frozen until required for experiments.

The syrups were then put through a series of steps in order to obtain the phenolic-rich extract.

The extract alone had a mild effect in fighting off bacterial infection. However, the maple syrup extract was particularly effective in combating bacteria when administered together with antibiotics.

Tufenkji commented "Initially, we found that the maple syrup extract did not have a strong antimicrobial effect; but, when we combined it with antibiotics, we were excited to see synergy . . .the preliminary results are promising."

The maple syrup extract, together with antibiotics, was also better at targeting bacteria in the form of biofilms.

Biofilms are colonies of bacteria, which strongly stick together on a surface.

They are generally very tough to treat, as they require higher doses of antibiotics.

They can be found in a whole range of surfaces, such as the urinary tract, catheters, contact lenses and hospital equipment.

The North American maple tree has played a vital role in Native Americans' traditional medicine and extracts have been known to have multiple health benefits.

"We had read a study that showed that maple syrup extract has anti-carcinogenic properties. We thought it would be interesting to investigate whether the same extract might have anti-microbial properties," said Tufenkji.

Although this study is in early stages, the findings suggest a possible simple and effective method for reducing antibiotic use and the maple syrup extract hopefully would be incorporated into antibiotic capsules in future.

Until then, let's enjoy an extra dash of maple syrup on our breakfast pancakes!


Image credit: http://www.chatelaine.com/




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