Thursday, December 13, 2007

Got an Infection? Here’s a Sweet Solution


If you’ve ever been to New Zealand (or know someone who has), then I’m sure you’ve heard of Manuka honey. This type of honey is made by bees that take pollen from the Manuka bush, a plant that is native to New Zealand. A wide variety of Manuka honey products are manufactured and sold all over New Zealand. These include ointments, skin creams, lip balms, and honey capsules. Trust me, if you’re in New Zealand, you’ll see this stuff everywhere! But why is it so widely used? It’s a proven antimicrobial agent that’s been found to benefit anything from minor abrasions to MRSA!

For centuries people have used honey as a cure-all treatment, using it for things like sore throats and wound dressings. Only recently though have the full benefits of this sticky stuff been delved into. Why honey can be used as an antimicrobial agent is a little complex, but basically it’s a combination of its low pH, it’s osmotic effect, and the presence of hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide occurs as a result of glucose oxidase, an enzyme secreted by bees. This appears to be one of the main components of the antimicrobial effectiveness of honey.

The healing properties of Manuka honey have been investigated for over 10 years in the University of Waikato Honey Research Unit in Hamilton, New Zealand. They’ve found that while regular honey has antibacterial properties, Manuka honey may have healing characteristics that trump those of other varieties. The actual reason that Manuka honey is so beneficial is still unknown, but researchers have dubbed this quality a “Unique Manuka Factor”, or UMF.

The Honey Research Unit has tested the effectiveness of honey on antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria like VRE (Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus) and MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). It was shown that both regular honey and Manuka honey had about the same effectiveness on MRSA. Both types of honey were able to inhibit growth of MRSA, and both had similar MIC’s. When VRE was tested, again both types of honey were able to inhibit growth, however Manuka honey was much more effective than regular honey. Many other types of bacteria have been tested and the results can be found here: http://bio.waikato.ac.nz/pdfs/honeyresearch/activity.pdf

So with all of these tests telling us that Manuka honey is so effective, the big question that remains is will honey be an accepted form of treatment by the medical community and general population? Doctors may be hesitant about prescribing honey to patients suffering from infected wounds. Patients may not like the thought of using honey as a type of wound dressing. Causing this type of apprehensive thinking seems to be one of the only negatives that Manuka honey suffers from.

Sources:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3787867.stm
http://bio.waikato.ac.nz/honey/contents.shtml
http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis92/apoct92.htm

Image:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/feras_shoujah/2056811569/

1 comment:

Dominic B. said...

And the bees are dying.....