Manuka honey could help to clean deadly drug-resistant lung infection

A potential new treatment combining natural manuka honey with a widely used drug has been developed.


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Scientists at Aston University have developed a new treatment for treating a potentially lethal lung infection. They suggest that combining natural manuka honey with a widely used drug could significantly reduce the side effects of one of the current drugs used for its treatment.

Manuka honey has long been known to offer various therapeutic benefits, but more recently, its broad spectrum antibacterial action has come to light. According to recent research, many drug-resistant bacterial diseases, including Mycobacterium abscessus, which typically affects people with cystic fibrosis (CF) or bronchiectasis, may now be killed by manuka honey.

In their study, scientists combined manuka honey and the drug amikacin in a lab-based nebulization formulation to treat the harmful bacterial lung infection Mycobacterium abscessus.

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 the dosage required to kill the bacteria.

They used a lab-based lung model and nebulizer to nebulize manuka honey and amikacin together. They found that they could improve bacterial clearance, even when using lower doses of amikacin, resulting in fewer life-changing side effects for the patient.

Scientists noted, “This new approach is advantageous not only because it has the potential to kill off a highly drug-resistant infection, but because of the reduced side effects, benefiting the quality of life and greatly improving survival chances for infected CF patients.”

Commenting on their findings, lead author and Ph.D. researcher Victoria Nolan said, “So far, treatment of Mycobacterium abscessus pulmonary infections can be problematic due to its drug-resistant nature. The variety of antibiotics required to combat infection results [s] in severe side effects.

“However, the use of this potential treatment combining amikacin and manuka honey shows excellent promise as an improved therapy for these terrible pulmonary infections.

“There is a need for better treatment outcomes, and in the future, we hope this potential treatment can be tested further.”

Dr. Jonathan Cox, senior lecturer in microbiology at Aston University, said, “By combining a natural ingredient such as manuka honey with amikacin, one of the most important yet toxic drugs used for treating Mycobacterium abscessus, we have found a way to potentially kill off these bacteria with eight times less drug than before. This can significantly reduce amikacin-associated hearing loss and greatly improve the quality of life of many patients—particularly those with cystic fibrosis.

“I am delighted with the outcome of this research because it paves the way for future experiments. We hope that with the funding, we can move towards clinical trials that could result in a change in strategy for treating this debilitating infection.”

Dr. Peter Cotgreave, chief executive of the Microbiology Society, said“The Microbiology Society is proud to support the scientific community as it explores innovative solutions to overcome the growing global challenge of antimicrobial resistance. This study demonstrates one of many ways microbiologists are pioneering new methods to tackle drug-resistant infections, by incorporating natural products, like manuka honey, into existing therapies.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Victoria C. Nolan et al., In vitro synergy between manuka honey and amikacin against Mycobacterium abscessus complex, shows potential for nebulisation therapy, Microbiology (2022). DOI: 10.1099/mic.0.001237


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