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Updated 24 May 2013

Honey acts as an antibiotic

Honey, used in tea or hot water for generations to soothe sore throats, could soon substitute antibiotics in fighting stubborn ear, nose and throat infections, according to a new study.

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Honey, used in tea or hot water for generations to soothe sore throats, could soon substitute antibiotics in fighting stubborn ear, nose and throat infections, according to a new study.

Ottawa University doctors found in tests that ordinary honey kills bacteria that cause sinus infections, and does it better in most cases than antibiotics.

"It's astonishing," researcher Joseph Marson said of bees' unexplained ability to combine the nectar of flowers into a seemingly potent medicine.

The preliminary tests were conducted in laboratory dishes, not in live patients, but included the "superbug" methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA, which is highly resistant to antibiotics. In upcoming human trials, a "honey rinse" would be used to "flush out the goo from sinus cavities," said Marson.

How the research was done
The researchers have so far tested manuka honey from New Zealand, and sidr honey from Yemen. The two killed all floating bacteria in liquid, and 63 – 91% of biofilms - microorganisms that sometimes form a protective layer in sinus cavities, urinary tracts, catheters, and heart valves, protecting bacteria from normal drug treatments and often leading to chronic infections.

The most effective antibiotic, rifampin, killed just 18% of the biofilm samples in the tests.

"As of today, nobody is sure what in the honey kills the bacteria," Marson said, noting that "not all honeys have the same potency" and calling for more research to determine the mechanism behind the healing.

Canada's clover and buckwheat honey did not work at all. Previous studies have shown honey's healing properties on infected wounds. The results of the study were presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, in Chicago. – (Sapa, September 2008)

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The sweet debate

 
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