Many people know about the antibacterial properties of manuka honey and its topical use in hospitals and it is again in the news with an article about how it may be useful in treating bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. A disadvantage of antibiotic use is that resistant bacteria flourish and therefore antibiotics can become less effective against pathogens such as MRSA (meticillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus). A recent study involving bacteria commonly found in wounds has indicated that bacteria treated with Manuka honey do not become resistant, suggesting an advantage of its use over antibiotics (Cooper et al., 2010)
In addition, recent research has suggested mechanisms of action through which Manuka honey is active against a range of bacteria that are commonly associated with skin infections and infected wounds. Studies on Staphylococcus aureus bacteria indicate that Manuka honey may act to stop the process of bacterial cell division (Henriques et al., 2010) and down-regulate the expression of proteins in the cell’s response to stress (Jenkins et al., 2011). A study on Pseudomonas aeruginosa has found that the bacterial cell undergoes destructive change leading to cell lysis (cell breakdown) (Henriques et al., 2011).
Manuka honey has also been shown to be effective in aiding wound healing (Natarajan et al., 2001) and this may be due in part to effects on particular white blood cells (monocytes); it has been shown to increase production of signalling molecules involved in healing and tissue repair (Tonks et al., 2003)
Cooper RA, Jenkins L, Henriques AF, Duggan RS, Burton NF. (2010) ‘Absence of bacterial resistance to medical-grade manuka honey’. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 29(10):1237-41.
Henriques AF, Jenkins RE, Burton NF, Cooper RA. (2010) ‘The intracellular effects of manuka honey on Staphylococcus aureus’. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 29(1):45-50.
Henriques AF, Jenkins RE, Burton NF, Cooper RA. (2011) ‘The effect of manuka honey on the structure of Pseudomonas aeruginosa’. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 30(2):167-71
Jenkins R, Burton N, Cooper R. (2011) ‘Effect of manuka honey on the expression of universal stress protein A in meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus’. Int J Antimicrob Agents. 37(4):373-6.
Natarajan S, Williamson D, Grey J, Harding KG, Cooper RA. (2001) ‘Healing of an MRSA-colonized, hydroxyurea-induced leg ulcer with honey’. J Dermatolog Treat. 12(1):33-6.
Tonks AJ, Cooper RA, Jones KP, Blair S, Parton J, Tonks A. (2003) ‘Honey stimulates inflammatory cytokine production from monocytes’ . Cytokine. 21(5):242-7.