Pomegranate can combat MRSA


Senior Member

Pomegranate 'can combat MRSA and other superbugs'Scientists have discovered that the fruit can be combined with vitamin C and metal salts to fight hospital superbugs

Anushka Asthana The Observer, Sunday 27 December 2009 Article history

Scientists have discovered the power of fruit as a potential new weapon in the fight against MRSA and other hospital superbugs. A team from the University of Kingston, in Surrey, have shown that pomegranate can be used to create an ointment with the power to tackle the drug-resistant infections.

In a series of tests conducted over three years, academics found that mixing the fruit's rind with two other natural products metal salts and vitamin C greatly enhanced its infection-fighting properties. The discovery could pave the way for a lotion to be developed for patients or perhaps, in time, a new antibiotic.

Declan Naughton, professor of biomolecular sciences at Kingston, described the breakthrough as "significant".

Naughton said scientists were searching for a way to create new antibiotics because of the rise in infections resistant to drugs on the market. One way to go about it was to screen natural products, he said.

"A great deal of medicines come from plants, but the normal approach taken by the pharmaceutical industry is to try to find one particular active molecule," he said. "After a considerable number of screening experiments, we found that combining three ingredients pomegranate rind, vitamin C and a metal salt gave a much more potent effect: killing off or inhibiting drug-resistant microbes from growing.

"It was the mix that fantastically increased the activity there was synergy, where the combined effects were much greater than those exhibited by individual components. It shows nature still has a few tricks up its sleeve."

The tests were conducted using microbes taken from hospital patients. Scientists found that pomegranate rind mixed with metal salts were most effective against MRSA, while adding vitamin C helped tackle other common hospital infections.

Naughton said the idea of using foodstuffs was unusual but meant that the body should be more able to cope with its application. "Patients are less likely to experience any major side-effects," he added.

It is not the first time pomegranate has been shown to have medical benefits. The fruit has already been hailed a super-food with claims that its juice can help protect against a range of ailments, from heart disease to male impotence.

Other scientists welcomed the findings but pointed out that they were limited to tests in the laboratory and had yet to be developed for use on people.

Anthony Coates, professor of medical microbiology at St George's in London, said: "What is the significance of all of this? Well, there is no doubt that these natural products like pomegranate are of interest. This observation the fact it has acted against MRSA and other drug-resistant infections is potentially significant. But we need to remember it is early research, of an observational nature, in vitro." Coates said much more work needed to be done to answer questions such as which component was the most active and to look at toxicity when applying the treatment to humans.

However, he pointed to other studies that had also highlighted the benefits of the fruit. One trial on 60 patients found that it had an anti-dental plaque effect, for instance.

Any discovery that was a potential step towards a new antibiotic was a positive thing, he added.

"The need for new antibiotics is acute," said Coates. "To put it in context, about 20 new classes of antibiotics were marketed between 1940 and 1962 yet only three have been marketed since. In all classes, resistance has arisen. Most antibiotics come from nature, so it is very valid to look at natural sources."

■ The leaves and bark of the willow tree have been talked about for centuries as a remedy for some illnesses. This is because they contain salicylic acid the precursor to aspirin. The Royal Society published findings about the medicinal properties of the natural ingredient in the 18th century.

■ Taxol (paclitaxel) is a chemotherapy drug that has been in use for many years. It is extracted from yew bark and needles. The white powder is turned into a clear, colourless liquid and administered intravenously. It is used in the treatment of ovarian, testicular and lung cancer among others.

■ The same scientists who discovered that pomegranate rind could counter MRSA also discovered that white tea could help prevent cancer and heart disease. It comes from the same plant as other teas, but the leaves are picked and harvested before fully open when the buds are covered by fine, white hair.

■ Rhubarb root has naturally occurring anthraquinones (organic compounds) which have a laxative effect.

■ Animals can also provide medicines. For example, a series of antibiotic peptides were extracted from the skin of the African clawed frog.