Researchers were shocked to discover that a medieval remedy for eye infections may be effective against up to 90% of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections. The results from this work have been presented at the Annual Conference of the Society for General Microbiology in Birmingham, UK.

Dr. Christina Lee, from the School of English at the University of Nottingham, and microbiologists from the University’s Centre for Biomolecular Sciences sought to recreate a 10th century potion to treat eye infections from the Bald’s Leechbook, which is considered to be one of the earliest known medical textbooks. The recipe called for two species of Allium (garlic and onion or leek), wine, and oxgall (bile from a cow’s stomach). The recipe specifies a precise method for making the topical solution that includes using a brass vessel for brewing, straining for purification, and a resting period of nine days prior to use. Four separate batches of the potion were created using fresh ingredients, along with a control containing the same quantity of distilled water sans vegetable compounds.

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The remedy was first tested on S. aureus cultures in synthetic wounds and infected wounds in mice. While none of the individual ingredients had significant effects, the recipe was highly effective; only about one bacterial cell per thousand survived. Diluting the medicine was not effective against S. aureus but did interfere with bacterial cell-cell communication, which has been suggested as an alternative infectious disease treatment. Dr. Kendra Rumbaugh of Texas Tech University and colleagues then carried out in vivo testing of the potion on MRSA-infected skin wounds on mice, which was up to 90% effective.

The researchers are currently seeking additional funding to continue their work on treating bacterial infections with this ancient therapy.

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