Maple syrup polyphenols show antibiotic potential

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

The French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec produces around three quarters of the world's supply of maple syrup, according the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers.
The French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec produces around three quarters of the world's supply of maple syrup, according the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers.

Related tags Bacteria

Maple syrup polyphenols may work in synergy with antibiotics by weakening bacteria, and significantly increasing antibiotic efficacy.

Scientists from McGill University tested concentrated maple syrup extract on in vitro​ infectious strains of E.coli, P. aeruginosa ​and P. mirabilis​, which commonly causes urinary tract infections. They found that the six polyphenols that naturally occur in maple syrup, are especially efficacious when combined with synthetic antibiotics.

Lead researcher Nathalie Tufenkji said: "The findings suggest a potentially simple and effective approach for reducing antibiotic usage. I could see maple syrup extract being incorporated eventually, for example, into the capsules of antibiotics."

She added that in vivo tests and clinical trials were needed to test the effects in humans.

According to the researchers, whose findings have been published in the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology​, the efficacy of antibiotics is low due to antibiotic resistance – an inevitable evolutionary survival mechanism of bacteria –and the formation of biofilms.

Biofilms are clusters of microbes which form on the surface of bacteria, forming a barrier and meaning that higher doses of antibiotics are required to penetrate it.

The study

The scientists purchased ordinary maple syrup and used organic solvents to extract the six main polyphenols found in maple syrup -  gallic acid, 1,2-dihydroxybenzene (catechol), 3,4-dihydroxybenzaldehyde (catechaldehyde), syringaldehyde, vanillin, and 3-hydroxybenzoic acid.

The most potent polyphenol-antibiotic combinations were with gallic acid-catechol and gallic acid-catechaldehyde pairs.

The polyphenols also had significant inhibitory effects on the formation of biofilm – up to 70% for E.coli​ at a concentration of 6.25 mg, 70% for P. mirabilis​ for a 12.5 mg concentration and 83% for P.aeruginosa ​at 12.5 mg.

“Our results further show that phenolic rich maple syrup extract synergistically interacts with conventional antibiotics (…) to inhibit the growth of the chosen bacterial strains.

“By combining antibiotics with mild antimicrobial agents (such as phenolic rich maple syrup extract) that exhibit synergistic interaction, it may be possible to decrease the dosage of antibiotics used to eradicate


bacterial biofilms.”

Maple syrup is not the only source of polyphenols that show anti-biotic potential - erythromycin or vancomycin have also been found to work in synergy with synthetic drugs.

Maple syrup was first collected by Native Americans who used it for sores, cough and diarrhoea as well as for culinary purposes.

It is produced when the starch stored in tree trunks during winter is converted into sugar in spring. 

Source: Applied and Environmental Microbiology

First published online 27 March 2015,   doi:10.1128/AEM.00239-15

"Polyphenolic Extract from Maple Syrup Potentiates Antibiotic Susceptibility and Reduces Biofilm Formation of Pathogenic Bacteria"

Authors:  N. Tufenkji et al.

Related topics Research

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1 comment

maple syrup

Posted by Dave Thompson,

Very cool to think that maple syrup could be used as a way to fight bad viruses. If we can use it to fight E.coli then we could potentially get rid of the virus completely. Also there are a lot of maple syrup trees, so there would be a ton of maple syrup to use for everyone. Thanks for the great post on this new uses for syrup.

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