Bacteria found in honey could help fight infection

Bacteria found in honeybee’s stomachs could have the power to fight infection, according to new research findings. 

The study, conducted by researchers from Lund University and Sophiahemmet University in Sweden, found that in the laboratory 13 bacteria strains living in honeybees’ stomachs can reduce the growth of drug-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA. 

Antimicrobial (antibiotic) resistance is a major threat to global health and the world has a desperate need for the development of new antibiotics. 

The researchers examined antibiotic-resistant bacteria and yeast that can infect human wounds such as MRSA and some types of E. coli. They found that each of them were susceptible to some of the 13 honeybee lactic acid bacteria (LAB). However, LAB are only present in fresh honey for a few weeks before they die, and are not present in such high levels in honey bought from shops.

However, while the researchers found that the LAB (more effective if used together) could have more of an effect than existing antibiotics, whether this difference was likely to be due to chance was not tested. 

The researchers also found that each LAB produced different levels of toxic substances that may have killed the bacteria.

According to the researchers, LAB-produced proteins and free fatty acids might be key to the long-held belief that even shop-bought honey has antibacterial properties. More research is needed before this can be proven.

Honey has traditionally been used for centuries to treat upper respiratory tract infections and wounds, but little is known about how it works.

The researchers concluded that LAB living in honeybees “are responsible for many of the antibacterial and therapeutic properties of honey. This is one of the most important steps forward in the understanding of the clinical effects of honey in wound management. This has implications not least in developing countries, where fresh honey is easily available, but also in western countries where antibiotic resistance is seriously increasing”.