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article imageCan garlic help those with cystic fibrosis to fight infection?

By Tim Sandle     Mar 3, 2015 in Science
A chemical compound extracted from garlic has been shown to kill the pathogenic bacteria capable of triggering life-threatening lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis.
The identified chemical is known as allicin. The chemical naturally exists in garlic bulbs and it serves to protect the plant from various soil bacteria. When fresh garlic is chopped or crushed, the enzyme alliinase converts alliin into allicin, which is responsible for the aroma of fresh garlic
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that affects mostly the lungs but also the pancreas, liver, kidneys and intestine. Longer-term issues include difficulty breathing and risk of lung infections. Patients with cystic fibrosis are most at risk from a group of bacteria described as Burkholderia cepacia complex (Bcc). Although measures are taken to protect patients from contracting the disease, if an infection takes root then the treatment can be very difficult. Treatment involves using a combination of antibiotics.
Researchers found that allicin — which can be extracted by crushing raw garlic — inhibits the growth of bacteria and, at higher doses, kills the plant pathogens. The team suggests that allicin kills Bcc bacteria by chemically modifying key enzymes. This deactivates them and halts important biological processes within the pathogens' cells.
Laboratory analysis has found that allicin-containing remedies have the potential to be used in conjunction with existing antibiotics to treat Bcc infections. This is at an early stage and researchers are keen to pinpoint exactly how the chemical kills the specific bacteria of interest.
Beyond the bacteria of concern for cystic fibrosis patients, the allicin compound could be an effective treatment against other types of pathogens, especially those resistant to traditional antibiotics.
The research has been published in the journal PLoS ONE , in a research paper headed “Garlic Revisited: Antimicrobial Activity of Allicin-Containing Garlic Extracts against Burkholderia cepacia Complex.”
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