A University of Missouri researcher has found an antibiotic in the Eastern Red Cedar tree that is effective against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)-a 'superbug' that is resistant to most medications.
"I wanted to find a use for a tree species that is considered a nuisance. This discovery could help people fight the bacteria as well as give farmers another cash crop," said Chung-Ho Lin, of the MU Center for Agroforestry at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.
Lin, George Stewart, professor and department chair of Pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and Brian Thompson, postdoctoral fellow in the Bond Life Sciences Center, identified, isolated and tested 17 bioactive compounds and has plans to analyze more compounds.
Scientists found that a relatively small concentration of a chemical compound found in the Eastern Red Cedar- 5 micrograms per milliliter - was effective against MRSA.
The team tested the compound's effectiveness against many versions of MRSA in a test tube with promising initial results.
"We found this chemical from the cedar needles, an abundant and renewable resource that can be collected annually. Because the compound is in the needles, we don't have to cut down the trees," said Thompson.
In addition to its potential use in fighting MRSA, researchers found that some chemical compounds in the tree are able to fight and kill skin cancer cells present in mice.
The team's research was presented recently at the International Conference on Gram-Positive Pathogens.