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article imageThe Dirt Drugstore: Clay Kills Bacteria

By Bob Ewing     Oct 26, 2007 in Science
Everything old is new again or the person who tells you to eat dirt may have your health in mind, A study shows that a French clay has medicinal uses, for example, this clay has been shown to be effective against a "flesh-eating" bug (M. ulcerans)
Eat dirt may take on a whole new meaning. A research team from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, Tempe (ASU) has stated that a type of French clay will kill several kinds of disease-causing bacteria.
This clay has been shown to be effective against a "flesh-eating" bug (M. ulcerans) on the rise in Africa and the germ called MRSA, which was blamed for the recent deaths of two children in Virginia and Mississippi.
"There are very compelling reports of clay treating infections, but that's anecdotal evidence, not science," said Lynda Williams, an associate research professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, Tempe.
Williams is the coordinator for three teams from ASU, USGS, and SUNY-Buffalo, who are studying healing clays under a two-year, $440,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health-National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Clay has a long history of being used to, for example, treat wounds, soothe indigestion, and kill intestinal worms. Recent years have seen a decline in this type of healing but as we witness a recent rise of drug-resistant germs, scientists are looking more closely at these ancient remedies to learn exactly what they can do and how they do it.
"We're beginning to generate the first scientific evidence of why some minerals might kill bacterial organisms and others might not," said Williams.
In laboratory tests at ASU's Biodesign Institute, one clay killed bacteria responsible for many human illnesses, including: Staphylococcus aureus, methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), penicillin-resistant S. aureus (PRSA), and pathogenic Escherichia coli (E. coli).
This clay is also responsible for eliminating Mycobacterium ulcerans, which is a germ that is related to leprosy and tuberculosis that causes the flesh-eating disease Buruli ulcer.
Line Brunet de Courssou, a French humanitarian working in the Ivory Coast, Africa, first descried this effect in 2002 when she used the clay to cure Buruli ulcers. The present treatment methods for advanced cases of Buruli ulcer are by surgical excision or amputation.
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