Old-Fashioned Remedies Effective Against Superbugs: Part II

Carol Wickencamp, <i>The Epoch

PureInsight | December 12, 2005

Last week, the superbug problem of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA) infections and their treatment with silver was discussed. This week more treatment options are explored.

Essential Oils and Extracts: More than Just Aroma and Taste

Grapefruit seed extract has been used for years as an alternative treatment for a wide variety of skin ailments, such as athlete's foot, mouth ulcers and eczema. Now studies have shown it is also effective against MRSA. However, its action does not kill "friendly" bacteria, as do antibiotics. Its toxicity is low, and it is effective in very low concentrations.

The doctors and nurses at Manchester University, England found a combination of three common oils—eucalyptus, lavender and tea tree—were more effective than conventional antibiotic treatments. The researchers found that the three oils usually used in aromatherapy destroyed MRSA and E. coli bacteria in two minutes flat. They believe that the oils' complex mix of chemical compounds defeat the defenses of the bacteria.

In the future, patients could possibly be treated with essential oil compounds, in conjunction with or in place of conventional antiseptics. Research using tea tree oil as a single treatment has yielded mixed results, suggesting that an essential oil combination might be most effective.

Unfortunately, because of E.U. legislation, the researchers are unable to begin clinical trials, although MRSA kills over 5,000 people a year in the U.K. and is becoming a severe problem in hospitals and institutions all over Europe.

Honey's Sweet Promise

Dioscorides described honey as being "good for all rotten and hollow ulcers" about 2,000 years ago, when it was used to treat infected wounds. The ancients weren't so ignorant—research shows that honey inhibits the growth of about 60 species of bacteria, demonstrates antifungal effects against some yeasts, as well as the three species of fungi that commonly cause skin diseases.

Dr. Rose Cooper, a microbiologist at the University of Wales Institute, has been studying the health benefits of honey for eight years. She has obtained a grant from the British Society for Anti-Microbial Chemotherapy that will fund 12 months' research into the role of New Zealand manuka honey in combating MRSA. Several studies have shown that wounds infected with Staphylococcus aureus are quickly rendered sterile by honey, and manuka honey is particularly effective as an antibacterial agent.

Honey dressings for wounds, believed to be helpful in preventing the spread of MRSA and sold as Medihoney products, are now available in the National Health Service in the U.K.

Sunshine, Salt and Garlic

Solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation (types A&B), as well as artificial UV (type C), has been proved to be a helpful addition to standard therapies, with MRSA being sensitive to both types of UV. A salt solution increased the effectiveness of the UV therapy.

A stabilized and standardized allicin, the natural antibiotic found in garlic and onions, shows highly significant activity against multi-drug-resistant organisms including MRSA. Allicin seems to inhibit certain essential enzymes in the microorganisms. A number of allicin products called Allimed™ are produced as capsules, liquid, soap and cream.

Insects Do Their Part

Not for the squeamish, maggot therapy is becoming more common in wound therapy. In pre-antibiotic times, maggots were a common ally in keeping infected wounds clean and in combating gangrene. Maggot therapy is a simple and highly successful method for cleansing stubbornly infected, non-healing wounds, particularly those infected with MRSA. In an effort to cut back on the use of antibiotics, doctors are again turning to the crawly creatures, which only eat unhealthy tissue and pose no risk to patients.

Conventional antibiotic treatment of necrotic wounds can take months; however, maggot therapy takes just two three-day sessions. Some doctors believe maggots are one of the most effective ways of treating wounds infected by MRSA, and the low cost, rapid relief and lack of toxicity of maggot therapy would certainly support them.

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