A 1,000 year old recipe to cure styes may very well be the cure scientists have been seeking for the very modern MRSA infection asccording to researchers from the University of Nottingham, England, after rediscovering it in a 10th century volume of “Bald’s Leechbook,” that had lain unforgotten in London’s British Library for ages.
The recipe for the salve, which calls for mixing “garlic, plus either onion or leek, wine from a vineyard that has existed since the ninth century and oxgall, the bile from a cow’s stomach, with very specific of instructions included brewing the solution in a brass vessel, straining it through a cloth and then letting the mixture sit for 9 days before use,” not only worked to clear the eyes, but was found to have killed 90% of MRSA bacteria grown in a petri dish of mouse cells, according to lead investigator Freya Harrison, who stated that the idea to try the recipe came after her team learned of its existence from Anglo Saxon expert Christina Lee.
Not only did Lee turn them onto Bald’s Leechbook, which contained cures for various ailments, Lee translated the recipe for them.
“We thought that Bald’s eye salve might show a small amount of antibiotic activity, because each of the ingredients has been shown by other researchers to have some effect on bacteria in the lab, but as it turned out, it wasn’t one particular ingredient that did the trick, but rather the whole recipe,” Harrison commented during an interview with The Independent. “I still can’t quite believe how well this one thousand year old antibiotic actually seems to be working, when we got the first results we were just utterly dumbfounded. We did not see this coming at all,”
In turn, Lee stated state the remedy is “just one of many potentially useful infection treatments contained in ancient texts. “Modern research into disease can benefit from past responses and knowledge, which is largely contained in non-scientific writings. But the potential of these texts to contribute to addressing the challenges cannot be understood without the combined expertise of both the arts and science.”
Although staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) bacteria has probably been attacking humans since the beginning of their existence, MRSA the disease was not identified until 1961 (approximately 2 years after the antibiotic methicillin was initially used to treat S. aureus and other infectious bacteria.. This organism is known for causing skin infections in addition to many other types of infections. There are other designations in the scientific literature for these bacteria according to where the bacteria are acquired by patients, such as community-acquired MRSA (also termed CA-MRSA or CMRSA), hospital-acquired or health-care-acquired MRSA (also termed HA-MRSA or HMRSA), or epidemic MRSA (EMRSA). Statistical data suggest that as many as 19,000 people per year have died from MRSA in the U.S. Data supplied by the CDC in 2011 suggests this number has declined by about 54% from 2005 to 2011, in part, because of prevention practices at hospitals and home care. In addition, hospital deaths from MRSA infection have declined by about 9,000 per year from 2005-2011. However, the CDC recently estimated about 80,000 infections with 11,000 deaths occurred in 2011, but they suggest that a far greater number of minor infections occurred in both the community and in hospitals.
Although S. aureus has been causing infections (staph infections) probably as long as the human race has existed, MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus ) was first noted in 1961, about two years after the antibiotic methicillin was initially used to treat it and other infectious bacteria. The disease’s resistance to methicillin was found to be caused by a penicillin-binding protein “coded for by a mobile genetic element termed the methicillin-resistant gene (mecA).” After that it did not take long for the gene to keep evolving until its present state as a “superbug,” now found to be resistant to additional antibiotics including oxacillin, and amoxicillin, as well as tetracycline and erythromycin, etc.
According to the CDC, nearly 2 million patients in the US end up suffering from MRSA each year, with an annual death rate of more than 23,000. Those at greatest risk are patients with weakened immune systems found in hospitals, nursing homes and prisons. Now considered the “most antibiotic-resistant bugs known,” MRSA also costs “ billions of dollars in health care.”
As a result of their recent success with the ancient recipe, Harrison and her team are now seeking additional funding to test it in the “real world,” with humans.