Researchers racing to find new ways of fighting antimicrobial resistance have uncovered an ancient secret to wiping out roughly 90 percent of antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA.
The recipe, which has been tested in labs and on mice, is from a 9th century manuscript known as Bald’s Leechbook, which up until now has been held in the British Library and read by only a few.
The recipe is described as an “eye salve”, transcribed in ancient Anglo-Saxon, which has been translated by researchers at the United Kingdom’s University of Nottingham.
Researchers turned to the manuscript in the hopes of finding “ancientbiotic” alternatives to the contemporary problem of antimicrobial resistance – an issue which doctors anticipate will kill 300 million people by the year 2050, according to the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance.
They expected to find a small amount of antibiotic activity in the recipe – but what they found was astonishing:
“We did not see this coming at all,” admitted microbiologist on the project Freya Harrison in a recent press video. “We were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was.”
Researchers re-created the salve as faithfully as possible from the translated recipe, even going so far as to use wine from a vineyard that existed in the 9th century. When they tested the salve in the lab against large MRSA cultures, they found that it effectively killed up to 90 percent of the MRSA bacteria. The key seemed to be in the combination of ingredients – individually, the ingredients did next to nothing, but when combined, they showed extraordinary MRSA-killing abilities.
When tested on biofilms of MRSA – bacteria colonies that are a notorious problem when it comes to the contamination of hospital equipment – the results were the same; the salve was able to penetrate bacteria colonies that even the most advanced modern antibiotics have difficulty treating, and wipe out 90% of the MRSA bacteria. Next, the salve was tested on living mice, where it proved to be not only effective but fast as well, wiping out bacteria in less than 24 hours.
When researchers presented their findings at the Annual Conference of the Society for General Microbiology in Birmingham, they were excited, but ultimately still early on in the research phase – they’re not sure as of yet how the salve actually works. The next step for scientists on the project is to figure out how the ingredients of the salve interact to fight bacteria strains.
If you want to try mixing up a batch of the eye salve yourself, you’re in luck – BBC has provided a translation of the recipe. Some of the ingredients may be difficult to find, however!
Bald’s Eye Salve Recipe
- 1 part garlic and 1 part other allium (onion or leek), finely chopped and crushed using a mortar and pestle for two minutes.
- 25 ml English wine – researchers on the study used wine from a historic vineyard near Glastonbury.
- Bovine salts, dissolved in water, should be added to the mixture last – keep the salve chilled for nine days at 4 degrees Celsius.
The Ancientbiotics Project