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You are here: Research & Tech Apitherapy Honey from Australian Native Myrtle Tree Provides Powerful Antibacterial Treatment

Honey from Australian Native Myrtle Tree Provides Powerful Antibacterial Treatment

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Chennai, March 5, 2011: Honey has been used for treating infected wounds since ancient times. Charaka and Susruta (about 800 - 200 BCE) used honey as a wound and sore dressing aid. Honey is now known to have an inhibitory effect to around 60 species of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria. This is mainly because of the antibacterial activity due primarily to hydrogen peroxide. However, honeys differ in their potency of antibacterial activity.

In recent years honeys from some plant species have been found to have powerful antibacterial properties. Well known among these is the manuka honey from New Zealand that is produced from nectar of Leptospermum scoparium of the Myrtaceae family. This honey is found to contain a high level of additional, non-peroxide, antibacterial components including methylglyoxal. In 2009 Tan et al.1 reported that honey produced from nectar of tualang tree (Koompassia excelsa, Fabaceae) exhibited antibacterial activity that is comparable to that for manuka honey. Likewise, a news report of Australian Broadcasting Corporation dated March 23, 2004 says that honey from jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata, Myrtaceae) tree unique to Western Australia has naturally high antibacterial properties, which could help cure particularly difficult infections like Golden Staph (Staphylococcus aureus). Honeys with non-peroxide antibacterial components are important in view of the recent reports of increasing antibiotic resistance of bacteria in treatment of wounds, ulcers and burns.

The latest in these findings is the discovery that another species of Leptospermum, namely, L. polygalifolium, provides the world's most potent antibacterial honey. Following is the news release dated March 1, 2011 of the University of Queensland, Australia.

Reference cited:

1. Tan, H.T., Rahman, R.A., Gan, S.H., Halim, A.S., Hassan, S.A., Sulaiman, S.A. and Kirnpal-Kaur, B.S. 2009. The antibacterial properties of Malaysian tualang honey against wound and enteric microorganisms in comparison to manuka honey. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 9: 34.

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THE UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA, UQ News

Published: March 1, 2011

Australian honey proves to be a powerful anti-bacterial treatment

Honey sourced from an Australian native myrtle tree has been found to have the most powerful antibacterial properties of any honey in the world and could be used to treat antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections that commonly occur in hospitals and nursing homes.

A Brisbane-based research group found that Australian native myrtle honey has very high levels of the antibacterial compound, methylglyoxal (MGO), and outperforms all medicinal honeys currently available on the market, including manuka honeys.

Led by the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), which is a partnership between The University of Queensland and the Queensland Government's Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI), the research is being carried out in conjunction with The Australian Organic Honey Company & Medi Bioactive Australia.

Australian Native Myrtle tree floering twigsThe project to date has involved comprehensive trials with honey harvested from a native species of myrtle (Leptospermum polygalifolium), which is distributed along the Australian eastern seaboard from the south coast of NSW to Cape York.

CEO of The Australian Organic Honey Company & Medi Bioactive Australia, Carolyn MacGill, said the findings had shown antibacterial potency levels that could allow for the development of highly effective antibacterial treatments.

"We have had MGO readings in excess of 1750 mg/kg in certain batches of honey. This would make this range of honeys one of the most potent in the world," Ms MacGill said.

Honeys investigated by the research group were effective as antibacterial treatments when used in the range of 500 - 1750 mg/kg MGO to prevent growth of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a common bacterial infection in hospitals and community facilities where residents are immune-challenged such as nursing homes.

Chief researcher working on the project, QAAFI scientist Dr. Yasmina Sultanbawa, said the potency of the honeys meant that only a small amount was required to fight infection.

"The sheer strength, due to high levels of active compounds in these honeys, has meant that we have been able to completely inhibit MRSA for example in in-vitro studies with a relatively small quantity of the honey," Dr. Sultanbawa said.

"This means potential products could maintain significant levels of antibacterial activity even in surface wounds where the honey is diluted in the bed of the infection.

"The presence of MRSA in a wound is a matter of concern and MRSA-colonised wounds are an increasingly urgent problem in hospitals and nursing homes. The continued emergence of strains with resistance to antibiotics or even antiseptics adds to the difficulties of treating these infections.

"Investigations into unconventional remedies that are non-toxic and unlikely to result in resistance to the treatment, such as the QAAFI research into bioactive honeys, is very promising."

According to Ms MacGill, the potential of the honeys could ultimately result in a range of highly sought-after products.

"Our research to date has produced overwhelming results in the quest to inhibit the very common infection MRSA at very low percentage rates of application," Ms MacGill said.

"This could provide enormous benefits for Australian and international medical fraternities and their patients."

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For more information on the collaborators involved in this research project see our web links.

QAAFI ; The University of Queensland, Australia; DEEDI ; The Australian Organic Honey Company & Medi Bioactive Australia