Garlic compound beats antibiotic-resistant bug

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Antibiotic resistance

A compound extracted from garlic is effective against even the most
antibiotic-resistant strains of MRSA, the 'hospital superbug' that
now kills thousands of patients in the UK each year, reports a
British researcher.

Microbiologist Dr Ron Cutler, based at the University of East London, claims that the garlic compound allicin not only kills established varieties of MRSA, but also destroys the new generation of 'super-superbugs' that have evolved resistance to Vancomycin and Glycopeptides, the powerful antibiotics widely considered to be the last line of defence against MRSA.

Allicin can cure patients with MRSA-infected wounds within weeks, according to a paper to be published early next year.

MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus​) now causes an estimated 2,000 deaths in UK hospitals each year, mainly through secondary infection of surgical wounds. MRSA organisms can live harmlessly in humans and are carried in the nasal passages and on the skin, but they can cause fatal infection in immune-suppressed patients, the elderly, the young and those with surgical implants.

Doctors have become increasingly alarmed over the past few months by the emergence in UK hospitals of new generations of resistant strains of MRSA known as VISAs and GISAs (Vancomycin or Glycopeptide-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). MRSA has also become endemic in many hospitals, especially in London and the south-east of England.

After showing that allicin destroys the MRSA microbe in laboratory trials, Cutler has now teamed up with the firm Allicin International​ to develop topical treatments including a nasal cream, oral capsules and soaps that have proved effective against both MRSA and GISA.

The company has also provided funding for a major clinical trial to test the use of allicin to reduce nasal carriage on around 200 healthy volunteers. Initial results are due to be published in summer 2004.

"The trials we have conducted so far show that this formulation is highly effective against MRSA, and it could save many lives. This finding is backed up by initial findings from a number of recent case studies. We have been trying to set up a clinical trial for many months now, and at last we have secured funding from sources including Allicin International,"​ said Dr Cutler.

The in vitro​ research was presented at the Institute of Biomedical Scientists congress in Birmingham during October and is being prepared for publication in the Journal of Biomedical Science​ next year.

"MRSA is causing a genuine crisis in our hospital system in Britain and worldwide. Antibiotics are increasingly ineffective, but we do have a powerful natural ally. Garlic has been used in medicine for centuries, and it should be no surprise that it is effective against this very modern infectio,"​ added Cutler.

A study published last year found that raw garlic consumption could help limit the damage done to the heart after surgery because of its natural antioxidant properties. Supplements of allicin have also been shown to reduce risk of colds, prevent high blood pressure and kill cancer cells.

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