A thousand-year-old remedy might help scientists treat MRSA infections. The instructions for this ancient potion was discovered at the British Library in one volume of Bald’s Leechbook which is considered one of the earliest medical books known in history.
The remedy was created to treat eye infections. Christina Lee, an expert on Anglo-Saxon society from the School of English at the University of Nottingham was in charge of translating the 10th century potion.
She explained that one reason for studying this recipe was that “it contains ingredients such as garlic that are currently investigated by other researchers on their potential antibiotic effectiveness”.
The ingredients needed included two species of Allium (from the onion genus), wine and ox gall which is bile from a cow’s stomach. All of these needed to be brewed together in a brass vessel.
The team tried to recreate the recipe as exact as possible. The textbook gave the exact steps and amounts needed for the potion. The book also indicated the potion needed to stand for nine days before filtering it through a cloth.
As the team wanted to faithfully replicate the potion, scientists needed to find wine from a vineyard that existed in that period. After finishing the remedy, the team tested it on MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) cultures. This type of staph is resistant to common antibiotics and can generate deadly infections.
The team didn’t hope for much but the results left them baffled. According to lead scientist Freya Harrison this ancient treatment showed incredible potency as an “anti-Staphylococcal antibiotic”. She described the effects:
“We were going from a mature, established population of a few billion cells, all stuck together in this highly protected biofilm coat, to really just a few thousand cells left alive. This is a massive, massive killing ability.”
The next step was to test the recipe on “in vivo wound models”, meaning on live organisms. There were doubts that this ancient medicine wouldn’t have the same effects on living organisms but the results were the same, the potion killing 90% of MRSA bacteria in the wounds biopsied from mice.
The medication also proved to maintain its effectiveness for a long time if stored in bottles in refrigerators.
Researchers will now focus on understanding the mechanisms behind the recipe’s bacteria killing power.
Image Source: Medievalists