Initial research is promising for an ancient combination of natural ingredients to kill MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant superbug

Researchers in England say an ancient folk cure might help kill the superbug MRSA, Justin Moyer reports for The Washington Post.

MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is among the infections that have grown resistant to antibiotics because the drugs have been overused, and scientists have been fighting it technologically, Moyer writes.
But researchers have recently found that MRSA is “vulnerable to an ancient remedy” made of garlic, some onion or leek, copper, wine and oxgall, or cow’s bile. Garlic and copper have been thought to have antibiotic or antimicrobial properties.
“We were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was,” Freya Harrison, one of the researchers from the University of Nottingham, told the BBC, Moyer reports.

The remedy, called eye salve, was found in a manuscript written in Old English from the 10th century called “Bald’s Leechbook,” a well-respected physician’s desk reference from that time, Moyer reports.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated MRSA contributed to the deaths of more than 5,000 people in the United States in 2013, Moyer reports. Kentucky has the third highest rate of MRSA bloodstream infections in the nation, according to the National Healthcare Safety Network. Moyer writes that “some say it could eventually kill more people than cancer.”
Moyer notes that the abstract for a conference at which the research will be presented cautions that “oxgall was no cure-all,” saying, “Antibacterial activity of a substance in laboratory trials does not necessarily mean the historical remedy it was taken from actually worked in toto.”

Christina Lee, an associate professor in Viking studies at Nottingham, told Moyer “that it was the combination of ingredients that proved effective against MRSA, which shows that people living in medieval times were not as barbaric as popularly thought.”
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