- The red berries of the Brazilian peppertree has medicinal property against the antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria.
- The extract from the berries inhibits formation of skin lesions in mice infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus auereus (MRSA).
- The Brazilian peppertree extract works by simply disrupting the signaling of MRSA bacteria without killing it.
The red berries of the Brazilian peppertree, common in Florida contain an extract with the power to disarm dangerous antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria, scientists at Emory University have discovered.
The journal Scientific Reports is publishing the finding, made in the lab of Cassandra Quave, by an assistant professor in Emory's Center for the Study of Human Health and in the School of Medicine's Department of Dermatology.
‘The Brazilian peppertree extract works by simply disrupting the signaling of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus auereus (MRSA) bacteria without killing it.’
"Traditional healers in the Amazon have used the Brazilian peppertree for hundreds of years to treat infections of the skin and soft tissues," Quave says.
"We pulled apart the chemical ingredients of the berries and systematically tested them against disease-causing bacteria to uncover a medicinal mechanism of this plant."
The researchers showed that a refined, flavone-rich composition extracted from the berries inhibits formation of skin lesions in mice infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus auereus (MRSA).
The compound works not by killing the MRSA bacteria, but by repressing a gene that allows the bacteria cells to communicate with one another. Blocking that communication prevents the cells from taking collective action, a mechanism known as quorum quenching.
"It essentially disarms the MRSA bacteria, preventing it from excreting the toxins it uses as weapons to damage tissues," Quave says. "The body's normal immune system then stands a better chance of healing a wound."
The discovery may hold potential for new ways to treat and prevent antibiotic-resistant infections, a growing international problem. Antibiotic-resistant infections annually cause at least two million illnesses and 23,000 deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Brazilian peppertree extract works by simply disrupting the signaling of MRSA bacteria without killing it. The researchers also found that the extract does not harm the skin tissues of mice, or the normal, healthy bacteria found on skin.
"In some cases, you need to go in heavily with antibiotics to treat a patient," Quave says.
"But instead of always setting a bomb off to kill an infection, there are situations where using an anti-virulence method may be just as effective, while also helping to restore balance to the health of a patient. More research is needed to better understand how we can best leverage anti-virulence therapeutics to improve patient outcomes."
- Cassandra Quave et al., Brazilian peppertree packs power to knock out antibiotic-resistant bacteria, Scientific Reports (2017).