Increased rates of antibiotic resistant infections have led to a dramatic decrease in the effectiveness of almost all conventional drugs. Long live the honey bee! Traditional folk healers have talked about the virtues of honey for treating infections while conventionally trained physicians have long dismissed these claims. Finally there is a bit of science supporting the claims that honey just might have some effect after all.
Researchers in the Netherlands, with government and industry support, investigated the antimicrobial properties of a “medical-grade” honey, which is produced by bees in closed greenhouses. In in vitro studies of bactericidal activity, a 40% solution of honey reproducibly killed all bacterial isolates tested, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, vancomycin-resistant Escherichia faecium, and multidrug-resistant gram-negative rods. Forty-two healthy volunteers then had small forearm patches of skin swabbed with honey and covered with polyurethane dressings for 2 days. Compared with control skin patches (covered with polyurethane, but without honey) on the same volunteers, the honey-covered patches were culture-negative for bacteria significantly more often. Be careful with store bought honey however, because grocery-grade honey is not standardized and can be bacterially contaminated. Much to bee lovers delight, honey might one day take its place alongside mupirocin as a topical microbicide or even as a treatment for wounds that are infected with multidrug-resistant organisms.
Kwakman PHS et al. Medical-grade honey kills antibiotic-resistant bacteria in vitro and eradicates skin colonization. Clin Infect Dis 2008 Jun 1; 46:1677