Manuka honey could help to clear lung infection in cystic fibrosis patients

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UK scientists have developed a potential nebulisation treatment using manuka honey to clear a drug resistant lung infection that can be fatal in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients.

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Aston University researchers combined the antibiotic amikacin with manuka honey as a novel treatment for Mycobacterium abscessus.

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Using the manuka honey combination resulted in an eight-fold reduction in the dosage of the antibiotic, they said in the journal Microbiology.

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The researchers noted that manuka honey is long known to have wide-ranging medicinal properties, but more recently has been identified for its broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity.

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They said they had now found it had the potential to kill a number of drug-resistant bacterial infections, which usually affect patients with CF or bronchiectasis.

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CF is a genetic condition affecting around 10,800 people and one in every 2,500 babies born in the UK, while bronchiectasis is a long-term condition where airways become widened, leading to a build-up of excess mucus.

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In the study, the researchers used samples of the bacteria Mycobacterium abscessus taken from 16 infected CF patients.

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They then tested the antibiotic amikacin, combined with manuka honey, to discover what dosage was required to kill the bacteria.

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By nebulising manuka honey and amikacin together, they found they could improve bacterial clearance, even when using lower drug doses, which would result in less life-changing side effects.

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In the UK, of the 10,800 people living with CF, Mycobacterium abscessus infects 13% of all patients with the condition.

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The new approach would be advantageous not only because it has the potential to kill off a highly drug resistant infection, but also due to the reduction in side effects, such as hearing loss.

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Mycobacterium abscessus is a highly drug resistant bacterial pathogen that caused serious lung infections in people with pre-existing conditions, such as CF and bronchiectasis, as well as causing skin and soft tissue infections.

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Currently, patients are given a cocktail of antibiotics, consisting of 12 months or more of antimicrobial chemotherapy and often doesn’t result in a cure.

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The dosage of amikacin usually used on a patient to kill the infection is 16 micrograms per millilitre. But the researchers found the new combination using honey, required a dosage of just 2 micrograms per millitre of amikacin.

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Until now Mycobacterium abscessus has been virtually impossible to eradicate in people with cystic fibrosis, noted the researchers.

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They added that it can also be deadly if the patient requires a lung transplant because they are not eligible for surgery if the infection is present.

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