In what may well represent an enormous leap in medicine experts are not looking in to the future, but looking into our past. A 1000 year old treatment for eye infections may hold the key to eradicating the drug resistant MRSA, along with other superbugs.
This striking discovery was accomplished when scientists were able to replicate a 9th Century Anglo-Saxon cure using onion, garlic and part of a cow’s stomach. Researchers were “astonished” to discover that this remedy, used a millennia ago, almost completely wiped out methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus; otherwise known as MRSA. So shocked were they by this almost complete destruction of drug resistant diseases that this Anglo-Saxon remedy will now be presented to the national microbiology conference.
The remedy was found in Bald’s Leechbook, an old English manuscript containing instructions on various treatments, which is currently being held in the British Library. An Anglo-Saxon expert, Dr Christina Lee, from the University of Nottingham, was drafted in to translate the recipe for an “eye salve”, which includes garlic, onion or leeks, wine and cow bile. Experts from the university’s microbiology team recreated the remedy and then tested it on large cultures of MRSA, leading to this magnificent discovery.
For those interested in the actual recipe itself the remedy would require equal amounts of garlic and either onion or leek, which then have to be finely chopped and crushed in a mortar for two minutes. From there you are to add 25ml of “English wine”, which comes from a historic vineyard near Glastonbury. You should also prepare another odd ingredient, for this already odd concoction, by dissolving bovine salts in distilled water, add the chilled bovine salt water and then keep the entire mixture chilled for nine days at 4C. This simple recipe can potentially be the first of many steps to pushing back drug resistant strains of diseases which, until now, have been incurable.
What is even odder is that it appears to be the mixture in totality, not just some of the constituent parts, which lead to the MRSA fighting properties. This result has been extensively tested, walking into a scientific conference claiming knowledge from the past may have seemed a little presumptuous. In each case, they tested the individual ingredients against the bacteria, as well as the remedy when fully mixed and a control solution. They found that the remedy when prepared as directed killed up to 90% of MRSA bacteria.
Dr Freya Harrison said the team thought the eye salve might show a “small amount of antibiotic activity”. She has since said, “But we were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was.”
Dr Lee, our Anglo-Saxon expert from earlier, has said there are many similar medieval books with treatments for what appear to be bacterial infections. She has also hypothesised that this could suggest people were carrying out detailed scientific studies centuries before bacteria were discovered, or even imagined.
The team’s findings will be presented at the Annual Conference of the Society for General Microbiology, in Birmingham.