A type of honey used for centuries to treat wounds may be the ultimate weapon against drug resistant bacteria, research suggests.
Manuka honey fights three types of bacteria that commonly infect wounds, including MRSA.
The honey prevents microbial growth in unusual ways and may even be able to reverse resistance to antibiotics, say scientists.
Traditional remedies containing honey were used to treat wounds by many ancient civilisations.
Bees produce manuka honey from the nectar of the manuka tree in New Zealand.
Experts have recognised the value of this type of honey, leading to its inclusion in many modern wound care products. However, the secrets of its healing powers are still largely unknown.
A team led by Professor Rose Cooper, from the University of Wales Institute Cardiff (UWIC), found that manuka honey prevents the attachment of bacteria to tissues - an essential step in the infection process.
Prof Cooper said: “Inhibiting attachment also blocks the formation of biofilms, which can protect bacteria from antibiotics and allow them to cause persistent infections.
“Other work in our lab has shown that honey can make MRSA more sensitive to antibiotics such as oxacillin - effectively reversing antibiotic resistance.
“This indicates that existing antibiotics may be more effective against drug-resistant infections if used in combination with manuka honey.”
The findings were presented at the spring conference of the Society for General Microbiology in Harrogate.
Prof Cooper said the research may increase the clinical use of manuka honey as doctors are faced with increasingly resistant microbes.
“We need innovative and effective ways of controlling wound infections that are unlikely to contribute to increased antimicrobial resistance,” she said. “We have already demonstrated that manuka honey is not likely to select for honey-resistant bacteria.”