Scientists at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, have uncovered how manuka honey can help fight infection-by destroying key bacterial proteins.
Led by Dr. Rowena Jenkins, the research team investigated the mechanisms of manuka honey action.
They found that its anti-bacterial properties were not due solely to the sugars present in the honey.
They grew Meticillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the laboratory, and treated it with and without manuka honey for four hours.
The experiment was repeated with sugar syrup to determine whether the effects seen were due to sugar content in honey alone.
The bacterial cells were then broken and the proteins isolated and separated on a system that displayed each protein as an individual spot.
The researchers saw many fewer proteins from the manuka honey-treated MRSA cells, and one particular protein called FabI seemed to be completely missing.
FabI is a protein that is needed for fatty acid biosynthesis.
This essential process supplies the bacteria with precursors for important cellular components such as lipopolysaccarides and its cell wall.
The scientists said that the absence of those proteins in honey-treated cells could help explain the mode of action of manuka honey in killing MRSA.
"Manuka and other honeys have been known to have wound healing and anti-bacterial properties for some time. But the way in which they act is still not known. If we can discover exactly how manuka honey inhibits MRSA it could be used more frequently as a first-line treatment for infections with bacteria that are resistant to many currently available antibiotics," said Jenkins.
The work was presented at the Society for General Microbiology's meeting at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.