Could maple syrup help to reduce antibiotic use?

17-Apr-2015

Syrup extract has been found to make antibiotics more effective against bacteria

A concentrated extract of maple syrup makes disease-causing bacteria more susceptible to antibiotics, according to researchers at McGill University. The findings, which will be published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, suggest that combining maple syrup extract with common antibiotics could increase microbial susceptibility, leading to lower antibiotic usage.

The overuse of antibiotics is fuelling the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria, which has become a major public health concern worldwide. Professor Nathalie Tufenkji's research team in McGill's Department of Chemical Engineering prepared a concentrated extract of maple syrup that consists mainly of phenolic compounds.

Maple syrup, made by concentrating the sap from North American maple trees, is a rich source of phenolic compounds. The researchers tested the extract's effect in the laboratory on infection-causing strains of certain bacteria, including E. coli and Proteus mirabilis (a common cause of urinary tract infections).

By itself, the extract was mildly effective in combating bacteria. But the maple syrup extract was particularly effective when applied in combination with antibiotics. The extract also acted synergistically with antibiotics to destroy resistant communities of bacteria known as biofilms, which are common in difficult-to-treat infections, such as catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

‘We would have to do in vivo tests, and eventually clinical trials, before we can say what the effect would be in humans,’ Tufenkji says, adding: ‘But the findings suggest a potentially simple and effective approach to reduce antibiotic usage.'

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The scientists also found that the extract affects the gene expression of the bacteria, by repressing a number of genes linked with antibiotic resistance and virulence.