ANTIBIOTIC resistance might have giant drug companies stumped but a Winchester doctor is winning attention with a new weapon in the fight against superbugs.
New research, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Global Antimicrobial Resistance shows the engineered honey kills a wide range of bacteria and fungi. It can even beat drug-resistant superbugs, including MRSA, E coli and pseudomonas.
Dr Matthew Dryden, consultant microbiologist at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital, has hailed it as potential major medical breakthrough and alternative to antibiotics for wound infections.
Honey has been used to treat wounds and burns for thousands of years.
But the new substance, called Surgihoney, has been processed to enhance its natural antibacterial activity. It works by delivering active oxygen molecules into wounds to boost people’s natural defence mechanisms, helping to improve their ability to fight infections and heal.
It mimics what happens in nature when the body is injured and immune calls release low levels of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) to kill invading microbes.
Dr Dryden said: “In an era of global antibiotic resistance, when a simple scratch may kill, it is impossible to underestimate the importance of a development like Surgihoney.
“Antibiotic resistance is a major global health threat which we are still slow to recognise. We need alternatives and this is where Surgihoney comes in.”
He added: “It is tempting to speculate it may be a major medical breakthrough.”
Dr Dryden said scientists had always looked to nature for answers.
“This is where the first antibiotics came from and we are still looking for solutions from the wonderful diversity of compounds produced in nature.
“We just have to crack the codes and make the discoveries.”
Surgihoney has been developed by father and son team Ian and Stuart Staples, who live near Chichester, with the help of scientists in Ireland.
The Staples, who set up Healing Honey Ltd to develop the product, are now looking to negotiate a deal with a big wound-care company.
Ian Staples, a trained horticulturist with a strong background in business, said: “We have developed a global solution for wound-care to help people from the poorest to the richest parts of the world.
“The potential for the product is so great that we are now looking for a global business to get it out to market.”
Dr Dryden’s team at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester carried out laboratory experiments on a wide range of bacteria gathered from infected wounds, including superbugs.
The results showed the bio-engineered honey killed all the bacteria and fungi tested. Researchers found it was better at beating bugs than other honeys tested, including the medical grade honey, Medihoney, while equal to chemical antiseptics silver and iodine which can be damaging to healing tissue.
Clinical case studies have shown that out of the lab, Surgihoney has remarkable healing properties. Dr Dryden’s team successfully used it to treat a wide range of wounds, including leg ulcers, pressure sores, burns and trauma injuries. Surgihoney can be made from organic honey from any floral source. This gives it a major advantage over Manuka which depends on nectar from a particular shrub for its potency, limiting supply.
The sterile, medical honey is approved for use in the UK and other parts of the world but is not yet commercially available.