Chestnut leaves yield extract that disarms deadly staph bacteria without boosting its drug resistance, scientists have found.
The discovery holds potential for new ways to both treat and prevent infections of methicillin-resistant S. aureus, or MRSA, without fuelling the growing problem of drug-resistant pathogens.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria annually cause at least two million illnesses and 23,000 deaths in the United States only. MRSA infections lead to everything from mild skin irritations to fatalities. Evolving strains of this “super bug” bacterium pose threats to both hospital patients with compromised immune systems and young, healthy athletes and others who are in close physical contact.
Researchers identified a family of compounds from chestnut leaves that, rather than killing staph, it takes away staph’s weapons, essentially shutting off the ability of the bacteria to create toxins that cause tissue damage. In other words, it takes the teeth out of the bacteria’s bite.
A single dose of the extract, at 50 micrograms, cleared up MRSA skin lesions in lab mice, stopping tissue damage and red blood cell damage. The extract does not lose activity, or become resistant, even after two weeks of repeated exposure. And tests on human skin cells in a lab dish showed that the botanical extract does not harm the skin cells, or the normal skin micro-flora.
Potential uses include a preventative spray for football pads or other athletic equipment; preventative coatings for medical devices and products such as tampons that offer favourable environments for the growth of MRSA; and as a treatment for MRSA infections, perhaps in combination with antibiotics
Read the full study here