A sweet solution to antibiotic-resistance?

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© Thom Lang/Corbis

Amid growing concerns about antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a team of researchers from the Netherlands may be developing a sweet way to fend off harmful bacteria. A new study in the July issue of the FASEB Journal details their research investigating the antimicrobial properties of an ingredient in honey known as defensin-1. Researchers have long known that honey has antibacterial qualities, but the team of investigators from Amsterdam set out to isolate which particular components of the sticky substance are most effective against bacteria.

They found that, in the right concentrations, a protein called defensin-1 — which strengthens immunity in honey bees, who add it to the honey — was effective at killing antibiotic-resistant bacteria including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), ciprofloxacin-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium, bacteria that can lead to harmful infections.

The researchers are hopeful that they can build on these initial findings to develop new uses for this potent ingredient in honey, and in light of an alarming trend of antibiotic-resistance, ultimately even put defensin-1 to use as an alternative to current antibiotics.