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Healing powers of Manuka honey explored in new study

The antimicrobial properties in the honey appear to be due to a compound found within the honey called methylglyoxal, according to an investigation conducted at Newcastle University in the U.K.. Having identified the specific compound, this could enable researchers to use the compound in medical devices in order to promote wound healing.

An example of such a device is a surgical mesh. The reason for focusing on devices like a mesh is while a mesh is needed to provide support for tissue regeneration, the design of the mesh also provides opportunity for bacterial biofilms to develop, which increases the chances of a patient becoming infected.

Mānuka honey is a monofloral honey produced from the nectar of the mānuka tree, Leptospermum scoparium.

To assess the compound, a study was set up whereby nanolayers of Manuka honey were carefully inserted between layers of a polymer. Following this, an electrostatic nanocoating was produced (with the field created between the honey, which has a negative charge, and the polymer, which carries a positive charge). A simulation of wound healing was conducted, whereby the honey was allowed to be slowly released over a three week period. This was demonstrated to inhibit bacterial growth over the study period.

Further work trying different layers of the honey were attempted, with the most effective quantity found to be what the researchers are calling a 16-layered ‘charged sandwich’.

Commenting on the study, lead researcher Dr. Piergiorgio Gentile states: “These results are really very exciting. Honey has been used to treat infected wounds for thousands of years but this is the first time it has been shown to be effective at fighting infection in cells from inside the body.”

The researcher also states that the use of the honey in this way represents one of the most effective antimicrobial materials that have been tried to date. While effective, the properties have, so far, only been tested out in culture against the bacteria Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Further work will need to conducted against an animal model.

The research, outing the success of combining a naturally occurring antimicrobial material with nanotechnology, has been reported to the journal Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. The research paper is titled “Potential of Manuka Honey as a Natural Polyelectrolyte to Develop Biomimetic Nanostructured Meshes With Antimicrobial Properties.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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