Manuka honey could help clear deadly drug-resistant lung infection, research finds

A potential new treatment combining natural manuka honey with a widely used drug has been developed by scientists at Aston University to treat a potentially lethal lung infection and greatly reduce side effects of one of the current drugs used for its treatment.

The findings, which are published in the journal Microbiology, show that the scientists in the Mycobacterial Research Group in the College of Health and Life Sciences at Aston University were able to combine manuka honey and the drug amikacin in a lab-based nebulisation formulation to treat the harmful bacterial lung infection Mycobacterium abscessus.

Manuka honey is long known to have wide ranging medicinal properties, but more recently has been identified for its broad spectrum antimicrobial activity. Now scientists have found that manuka honey has the potential to kill a number of drug resistant bacterial infections such as Mycobacterium abscessus — which usually affects patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) or bronchiectasis.

According to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, CF is a genetic condition affecting around 10,800 people — one in every 2,500 babies born in the UK -and there are more than 100,000 people with the condition worldwide. The NHS defines bronchiectasis as a long-term condition where the airways of the lungs become widened, leading to a build-up of excess mucus that can make the lungs more vulnerable to infection..

In the study, the researchers used samples of the bacteria Mycobacterium abscessus taken from 16 infected CF patients. They then tested the antibiotic amikacin, combined with manuka honey, to discover what dosage was required to kill the bacteria.

As part of the study the team used a lab-based lung model and nebuliser — a device that produces a fine spray of liquid often used for inhaling a medicinal drug. By nebulising manuka honey and amikacin together, it was found they could improve bacterial clearance, even when using lower doses of amikacin, which would result in less life-changing side-effects to the patient.

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