Last year, the United Nations General Assembly officially classified antibiotic resistance as a global health crisis. The rapid evolution of antibiotic-resistant microbes is now on the same level of threat as health problems such as the spread of HIV. Under this increased scrutiny, we witnessed a resurgence of interest for an incredible option, the all-natural fight against germs.
A distinct variety of Manuka honey in New Zealand has shown antibacterial properties that bacteria do not become resistant to. This type of honey is made from the flowering Manuka nectar (Leptospermum), and is effective against super-bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus, which are already resistant to available antibiotics. “Honey not only kills bacteria on contact, but we’ve also shown previously that bacteria do not become resistant to honey,” says Professor Liz Harry of Sydney University of Technology.
The composition of manuka honey is unique
“What makes it so special is the UMF, or Unique Manuka Factor,” says Carole Minker, Ph.D. in Pharmacy and Pharmacognosy. This number, indicated on the label, represents its antibacterial power. The higher it is, the more honey is deemed active. “
New Zealand researcher Peter Molan has highlighted the presence of this original substance, but it was not until 2008 that the molecule behind the UMF was methylglyoxal.
“All honeys contain this antibacterial substance,” says Dr. Becker, president of the French Association of Apitherapy. The particularity of manuka honey is to contain much more thanks to its botanical origin. “
While medicinal honey activity typically focused on the variety of Manuka honey from New Zealand, Harry and his colleagues showed in a recent study published in the PLoS journal that Australian Manuka honey contains the same chemical. which results in these antibacterial properties: methylglyoxal (MGO). Their research also reveals that even after years of storage, these properties remain effective. According to the lead author of the study, Dr. Nural Cokcetin, of the institute institute at UTS: “These results put Manuka’s Australian honey on the international radar at a time when antibiotic resistance is recognized as a global crisis. “
Image credit : Vanessa Valenzuela Davie
A new line of defense
Australian honey production is poised to get a big boost with these results. The extent of honey production in New Zealand is limited by a variety of factors, including the destructive impact of parasitic mites on bee populations around the world. The parasite has not yet made its way into Australian bee populations.
In addition, New Zealand has only one species of this genus, leptospermum, while Australia is home to almost all known species. According to Harry: “The fact that Manuka varieties in Australia are all as active as those in New Zealand and have essentially the same chemical profile will add significant value to Australian honey for beekeepers and provide an abundance of medicinal honey. “
This news is welcome during a period in the history of our planet that seems particularly serious for bee populations. Climate change, pesticide use and pests are dramatically changing bee populations around the world. In a national survey of bee colonies in the United States, the Varroa destructor mite was “the number one stress factor” for bee farms in the country.
The discovery of honey as a useful tool in the fight against the proliferation of super-bacteria closely maintains antibiotic resistance with climate change; the continuing decline of bee populations due to climate change could make us lose a powerful natural weapon in the fight against current and future super-bacteria.