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    Ancient medicine, modern MRSA cure?

    Who would have thought that the cure for Methicilin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) may have been hiding in a book written in the 10th century?

    “This is not something we ‘discovered’ searching through the text. The recipes have been translated by others for some time,” says Steve Diggle, Ph.D., associate professor at University Nottingham.

    Finding the Cure

    Christina Lee, Ph.D., from the University of Nottingham School of English met with Dr. Diggle and microbiologist Freya Harrison, Ph.D., to chat about her interest in ancient infections. Dr. Lee asked if they could build the 10th century potion intended for eye infections from an ancient Anglo Saxon book, called Bald’s Leechbook, in their lab and test it.

    "We used two types of Staph aureus. In in vitro biofilm experiments, we used a laboratory strain (Newman wild type), and for the mouse chronic wound assays, we used an MRSA strain," says Dr. Diggle.

    RELATED: MRSA 300 presents unique challenges, new treatments

    The recipe contains garlic, Allium, wine from 9th century wine vineyard and oxgal — bile from a cow’s stomach.

    “The book describes the recipe to be effective against a lump or wen in the eye. We might translate this nowadays to mean a ‘stye,’” says Dr. Diggle. “Most styes are caused by Staph aureus, and so we figured we should test it against the bug it was probably designed to treat.

    “We also tested it against Staphylococcus epidermidis (another commensal that can cause infection) and it worked on this as well,” he says.

    In order for the team to test the potion, they had to grow Staphylococcus biofilm, which consisted of sticky, multicellular blobs of Staphylococcus aureus in a synthetic model that mimics a soft tissue infection. After growing the bacteria, the researchers added the recipe like a topical ointment, left it for 24 hours. Then they recovered the cells and counted how many bacteria were still alive. They found Bald’s eye salve is a very potent anti-staphylococcal antibiotic.

    NEXT: Testing needed


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