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Medieval cow bile mixture kills antibiotic resistant superbug MRSA, study shows

Researchers at the University of Nottingham in England

Researchers at the University of Nottingham in England have found that a mixture containing cow bile is extremely effective in treating the antibiotic resistant MRSA infection. Photo Credit: AP / Michael Conroy

Garlic, onion, wine, and cow bile. These components, researchers at the University of Nottingham in England say, could be key to effectively treating a common antibiotic resistant infection.

MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a staph infection that is transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact, or through contact with wound drainage.

In 2012, there were 75,309 cases of invasive MRSA throughout the United States, according to the CDC. Recently, Long Island's Rocky Point High School has had five confirmed cases of the MRSA infection.

The infection (which can be life-threatening when contracted in medical facilities) is resistant to many antibiotics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But researchers were "blown away" by the results when the odd concoction was used to treat MRSA in the Nottingham study. Tested on both synthetic wounds and in infected wounds in mice, only about one bacterial cell in a thousand survived.

The study was replicated at Texas Tech University by Dr. Kendra Rumbaugh, an associate professor with the Department of Surgery at the university’s Health Sciences Center. Rumbaugh said she was initially skeptical of the study because previous tests have been ineffective at treating the bacteria.

"This ‘ancient’ solution performed better than the current ‘gold standard’ (vancomycin) and killed more than 90% of the MRSA in the wounds,” she said.

The researchers discovered the recipe in a medieval text, Bald's Leechbook, which is "widely thought of as one of the earliest known medical textbooks."

Mixing together two species of garlic and onion, wine and bile from a cow’s stomach, researchers brewed the mixture in a brass container, and then strained it before leaving it to sit for nine days before use.


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