Ancient Potion May Kill Modern Superbug

In study, old eye salve kills 90% of MRSA bacteria in mice
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 31, 2015 3:42 PM CDT

Could one of the world's oldest medical textbooks hold the secret to destroying today's antibiotic-resistant superbugs? A new study suggests it's possible, reports the BBC. After perusing remedies in a 9th- or 10th-century manuscript known as Bald's Leechbook in the British Library, researchers from Nottingham University whipped up an old eye salve and tested it on methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. When the mixture—minced garlic, plus onion or leeks, wine, and cow bile, all brewed with square of brass—was applied to the skin of mice infected with MRSA, researchers were "genuinely astonished" to find that 90% of the bacteria was destroyed, the Telegraph reports.

The homemade potion wasn't made perfectly; for one thing, crops have evolved since ancient times. But after nine days of brewing, the mixture's "self-sterilizing" quality "was the first inkling that this crazy idea just might have some use," says microbiologist Freya Harrison, as quoted in the New Scientist. Researchers believe no one ingredient was responsible for the effect—it was all about the combination. "The big challenge is trying to find out why that combination works," another researcher adds. The findings will be presented at a microbiology conference in Birmingham, notes the Washington Post, and the team cautions that success in a lab setting doesn't necessarily mean it will translate to the real world. (Click to read about surprising medical artifacts found on Blackbeard's ship.)

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