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Scottish honeys ‘exceptional’ in fight against superbugs

Honey (By Scott Bauer, USDA ARS [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
"Using liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry techniques, researchers discovered novel antimicrobial compounds in certain Scottish honeys which make them comparable in effectiveness to established antimicrobial honeys."

Certain Scottish honeys have shown antimicrobial activities equal to that of commercial ‘super-honeys’ and may be useful in the ongoing fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, scientists at the James Hutton Institute and Queen Margaret University (QMU) have found.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli, are a major source of concern. According to the World Health Organisation, new resistance mechanisms continue to emerge and spread globally, threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases and endangering the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations.

Due to its well-known antimicrobial properties, honey may provide an alternative in the fight against these so-called ‘superbugs’ when applied topically under certain conditions. Using liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry techniques, researchers discovered novel antimicrobial compounds in certain Scottish honeys which make them comparable in effectiveness to established antimicrobial honeys.

Dr Gordon McDougall, a research scientist based at the Environmental and Biochemical Sciences of the James Hutton Institute and co-author of the study, said: “We compared the antimicrobial action of six Scottish honeys and a well-known commercial ‘super-honey’ against antibiotic-resistant Acinetobacter calcoaceticus, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia coli.

“The high antimicrobial effects of some Scottish honeys confirmed previous work by Dr Lorna Fyfe, senior lecturer in Microbiology and Immunology at QMU, but in this study we noted that the most effective honeys had novel components.

“More research is needed to confirm the mechanism of action of the new components but this work provides potential targets in the search for new antimicrobial agents to augment existing treatments.”

The study is available online from the journal LWT - Food Science and Technology via ScienceDirect.

Paper: “Compositional analysis of Scottish honeys with antimicrobial activity against antibiotic-resistant bacteria reveals novel antimicrobial components” by Lorna Fyfe, Paulina Okoro, Euan Paterson, Shirley Coyle and Gordon McDougall. LWT – Food Science and Technology, 2017, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lwt.2017.01.023.

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.