British scientists say that there could be a natural weapon against the increasingly formidable superbug - the pomegranate.
A team of scientists from the University of Kingston, Surrey, led by Professor Declan Naughton, has discovered that the pomegranate rind can be turned into an ointment for treating MRSA and other common hospital infections.
In a series of tests conducted over three years, Professor Naughton and researchers from the School of Life Sciences learnt that the infection-fighting properties of pomegranate were greatly enhanced by combining the rind of the fruit with two other natural products - metal salts and Vitamin C. "We have developed a topical ointment that can successfully attack a range of drug resistant microbes," Professor Naughton said. "It's a significant breakthrough and a striking example of the effectiveness of adding more components to create a more active product."
The tests were conducted using microbes such as MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus
) taken from hospital patients. MRSA is an important pathogen - an agent of a disease - that can cause infections in humans and is difficult to combat because it has developed a resistance to some antibiotics. "The increase in drug-resistant infections found in hospitals has made our research topical and pressing," Professor Naughton said. "The idea of using a foodstuff is unusual and means that the body should be able to cope more easily with its application; patients are less likely to experience any major side-effects."
Pomegranate rind combined with metal salts was the most effective combination for treating MRSA, while other common hospital infections were better dealt with by all three components: pomegranate rind, metal salts and Vitamin C. Professor Naughton said it was exciting to discover a new use for natural products. "It shows that nature still has a few tricks up its sleeve," he said.
However, it will be a long time before any pomegranate- derived lotions come on to the market.
Despite three years of research, the Kingston scientists are still at the stage of testing the fruit's actions on MRSA bacteria in the lab.
More testing will be needed to see if it would work on a patient in the ward.