What Are Superbugs?
For the last one hundred years or so, we humans have developed a variety of antibiotics to fight infections. For years these antibiotics were groundbreaking remedies to help fight different types of bacteria that made us sick. Unfortunately, in recent decades, many of these antibiotics have lost their effectiveness against the harmful bacteria they were designed to defeat. Much of this is our own fault, as these medicines have been overused and have thus created mutated strains of bacteria now called "Superbugs".
Superbugs are drug-restisant strains of bacteria. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, it is estimated that Superbugs infect more than 2 million people and kill at least 23,000 per year. The NIH, part of the US Department of Health and Human Services probably has the best explanation:
When used properly, antibiotics can help destroy disease-causing bacteria. But if you take an antibiotic when you have a viral infection like the flu, the drug won’t affect the viruses making you sick. Instead, it’ll destroy a wide variety of bacteria in your body, including some of the “good” bacteria that help you digest food, fight infection, and stay healthy. Bacteria that are tough enough to survive the drug will have a chance to grow and quickly multiply. These drug-resistant strains may even spread to other people.
Over time, if more and more people take antibiotics when not necessary, drug-resistant bacteria can continue to thrive and spread. They may even share their drug-resistant traits with other bacteria. Drugs may become less effective or not work at all against certain disease-causing bacteria. (http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/feb2014/feature1)
So now we are stuck these Superbugs with little to no idea how to fight them. They are of our own creating and are developing at a rate unheard of in modern medicine. Until recently, we haven't had much luck. That is until an Anglo Saxon English specialist had an idea.
Dr. Christine Lee, an Anglo Saxon English expert from Nottingham University, enlisted the help of microbiologists to recreate a potion from the 10th century that was once used to treat eye infections. The "recipe" was taken from Bald's Leechbook, an old English leather-bound volume in the British library. The Leechbook is widely thought of as one of the earliest known medical textbooks and contains Anglo-Saxon medical advice and recipes for medicines, salves and treatments.
The potion was used in vitro at Nottingham and backed up by mouse model tests by a US collaborator. Scientists working on the experiment have used the word "astonishing" to describe some of the early results against the MRSA Superbug. An article written by The Daily Telegraph says the potion calls for two parts Allium, a scientific type that includes garlic, onion and leek -- as well as wine and oxgall, or the bile from the stomach of a cow. The paper further reports that the mixture is to be brewed in a brass vessel, purified through a strainer and left to sit for nine days before use. The mixture killed about 999 of 1,000 MRSA bacterial cells present in mice wounds. Dr. Kendra Rumbaugh of Texas Tech University, told the Telegraph that the 1,000-year-old remedy worked "as good, if not better than" traditional antibiotics.
More tests are still being conducted and at this time scientists simply don't know why this potion is working so well. This only goes to show that the most modern and "cutting edge" medical techniques are not always the answer and sometimes our ancestors had the right idea 1,000 years ago. Will be interesting to keep up with this story as it moves along. Please visit the University's release for more information.