In what has been dubbed a “hugely important finding”, Australian researchers have found that medical-grade manuka honey can be used as a new weapon in the fight against drug-resistant bacteria, such as the MRSA superbug.
New Zealand manuka honey is known to have potent broad-spectrum antibacterial activity. But the results of this latest study show that using so-called Medihoney in combination with a well-known antibiotic, rifampicin, in the treatment of skin and chronic wound infections is highly effective, said Professor Liz Harry, who led the University of Technology Sydney team.
More than an additive
“The combination of medical grade antibacterial honey with the antibiotic rifampicin, which is routinely used to prevent or treat chronic wound infections, is more effective at killing the bacteria methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) than each treatment alone,” she said, adding that the combination of medical Manuka with rifampicin is synergistic more than it is just an additive.
If MRSA were treated solely with rifampicin, the superbug became resistant very quickly. However, when Medihoney and rifampicin are used in combination to treat MRSA, rifampicin-resistant MRSA did not emerge. In other words, the honey somehow prevented the emergence of rifampicin-resistant MRSA – this is a hugely important finding.
“Our results support the idea that the treatment of infected chronic wounds with rifampicin and Medihoney offers several benefits including more effective eradication of the infection, reduction of the effective dose of rifampicin, which reduces possible side effects and a reduction of the risk of antibiotic resistance both in the short term and long term,” said Harry.
Used in combination
Rifampicin is one of the most effective drugs for treating chronic wound infections, but bacteria that are resistant to this drug so easily arise that it is always used in combination with other antibiotics to reduce or slow down resistance.
“[The use of honey is] gaining momentum and it may not be long before it is routinely incorporated into future medical and hospital practice. Honey dressings in all types of formats are available and are economical to use routinely.”
Source:"Synergism between Medihoney and Rifampicin against Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus(MRSA)." 2013, PLoS ONE 8(2): e57679. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057679
Authors: Müller P, Alber DG, Turnbull L, Schlothauer RC, Carter DA, et al.