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Mānuka honey effective against pathogenic bacteria

The focus of the research is on bacterial biofilms (biofilms are communities of microorganisms that bind together on a surface through the secretion of extracellular material.) Biofilms can occur on almost any surface, including within the human body such as on the teeth. A biofilm community is far more difficult to treat than bacterial populations that are unattached.

The research into the ability of Mānuka honey to inhibit biofilms has been conducted at the University of Southampton. Mānuka honey is a honey produced in Australia and New Zealand from the nectar of the mānuka tree. The honey produced by introduced European honey bees (Apis mellifera.) The honey has been demonstrated previously to have antibacterial properties when used outside of the human body; evidence as to whether taking the honey has any therapeutic value remains a matter of contention.

The new research continue the research into in vitro applications (meaning outside of the human body), which a focus on whether the honey could be formulated to be used as coating for medical devices prone to biofilm formation, and hence presenting a risk to a patient. An example is with urinary catheters.

In studies, coatings using the honey have been examined. Discussing the basis of these, Professor Bashir Lwaleed states in a research note: “We have been able to demonstrate that diluted honey is potentially a useful agent for reducing biofilm formation on indwelling plastic devices such as urinary catheters.”

To demonstrate the antibacterial properties, the research group cultured common urinary catheter pathogens – Escherichia coli and Proteus mirabilis – on plastic plates in the laboratory. Next the researchers experimented with different concentrations of the honey 3.3 percent, 6.6 percent, 10 percent, 13.3 percent, and 16.7 percent.

The outcome was that the honey strongly inhibited the ‘stickiness’ of the bacteria, and therefore the development of a biofilm. Some properties were observed even at the lowest concentration. However, the greatest microcidal effect was seen after three days and at a dilution of 16.7 percent, when stickiness had been reduced by 77 percent.

From the initial studies, the research group hope that the results will provide the basis of an alternative way of preventing catheter derived infections. At present the results relate to early biofilm formation only.

The research findings have been published in the Journal of Clinical Pathology. The research paper is headed “Diluted honey inhibits biofilm formation: potential application in urinary catheter management?”

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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