Researchers at the University of Nottingham may have found a cure for MRSA infections in the unlikeliest of places: A tenth-century text called “Bald’s Leechbook.”
The leather-bound tome contained a recipe to cure eye infections, which scientists recreated and tested. The recipe instructs the practitioner to "fetch a brass vessel, brew a remedy of bile from a cow's stomach and Allium—a plant from the garlic family—and create an unguent to treat the patient's inflamed eye," reports the Los Angeles Times.
Researchers began by growing the MRSA infection in the lab, topped the bacterial colonies with the treatment, then waited 24 hours to see how many bacterial cells were still alive.
The ancient potion was surprisingly effective—more effective than conventional treatments. Not only did it kill 1 in 1,000 bacterial cells, but when used on MRSA-infected mice, it killed 90 percent of the bacteria.
"We know that MRSA-infected wounds are exceptionally difficult to treat in people and in mouse models," Texas Tech University School of Medicine professor Kendra Rumbaugh said to the Los Angeles Times. "We have not tested a single antibiotic or experimental therapeutic that is completely effective." Rumbaugh performed the testing of Bald's remedy on MRSA-infected skin wounds in mice, and found the ancient remedy was at least as effective "if not better than the conventional antibiotics we used."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MRSA infections have become one of the most antibiotic resistant superbugs, killing about 20,000 people annually.
Now researchers want to know what makes the elixir so effective. Is it the individual ingredients delivering a 1-2 punch, or do they combine to form a chemical reaction that’s a bacteria-killing machine? Only time (and plenty of research) will tell.
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