WELLNESS
02/01/2012 11:53 am ET

Manuka Honey Helps Fight Skin Infections, Study Shows

By Katherine Harmon
(Click here for the original article and podcast)

Honey soothes a sore throat. Now research suggests that it could also help fight serious skin infections.

People have used honey's antibacterial properties for centuries. Now, scientists are discovering just how it works—and that it might be even better than antibiotics.

After surgery or a skin injury, many otherwise harmless bacteria that live on the skin can infect the wound site. One type of strep is particularly common and can lead to stubborn wounds that refuse to heal. But researchers found that honey—in particular that made from bees foraging on manuka flowers—stopped this strep in its tracks. The study is in the journal Microbiology. [Sarah Maddocks et al., "Manuka Honey Inhibits the Development of Streptococcus pyogenes Biofilms and Causes Reduced Expression of Two Fibronectin Binding Proteins"]

In lab tests, just a bit of the honey killed off the majority of bacterial cells—and cut down dramatically on the stubborn biofilms they formed.

It could also be used to prevent wounds from becoming infected in the first place. Hospital-borne infections are all too common, with more and more strains developing resistance to standard antibiotic treatments. So if the honey works in clinical trials, too, this sweet news will be all the buzz.

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