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A plant from Iranian cuisine could help solving antibiotic resistance

Posted January 24, 2018

Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in the world. More and more commonly used antibiotics become completely useless. Now scientists are turning to nature for help. Researchers from UCL say that an extract from a type of onion, called the Persian shallot, could increase effectiveness of our antibiotics. This may change the treatment of tuberculosis.

Allium Stipitatum is commonly used in Iranian cuisine, but is also known for its antibacterial properties. Image credit: Abderitestatos via Wikimedia(CC BY 3.0)

When people with tuberculosis check in the hospital they are typically greeted with a cocktail of four antibiotics. However, because of antibiotic resistance drugs are losing their ability to effectively control or kill harmful bacteria. They continue growing and damaging patient’s health. Treatments are still working, but it takes more time. This time is extremely important, because the longer bacteria are damaging patient’s body, the longer and more difficult recovery is going to be. Now scientists from multiple UK science institutions investigated extracts of bulbs from Allium Stipitatum. This plant is known for its use in cooking as well as its antibacterial properties.

Traditional Iranian kitchen commonly uses the Allium Stipitatum, better known as Persian shallot. However, scientists had to synthesize the active compounds to have better control during the research. They tested four different synthesised compounds. Surprisingly, all of them showed impressive ability to fight bacteria in the multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. The most effective compound was able to inhibit the growth of the isolated TB cells by more than 99.9%. Scientists concluded that this compound is the most likely candidate to be used as a template for new drugs, aimed at strains of tuberculosis, which have previously developed resistance to anti-bacterial drugs. This is good news, since currently there are 50 million people worldwide infected with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

Other researches are focusing on stronger antibiotics, while this one didn’t look at the drug itself, but rather additives that could increase its effectiveness. Professor Simon Gibbons, one of the authors of the paper, said: “Natural products from plants and microbes have enormous potential as a source of new antibiotics. Nature is an amazingly creative chemist and it is likely that plants such as the Persian shallot produce these chemicals as a defence against microbes in their environment”.

While this is great news for millions of people affected by drug-resistant tuberculosis, it is only the first step towards effective treatments. We may have to wait for years for this knowledge to be put to practice. However, it seems like scientists are finding more and more new ways we could solve antibiotic resistance.


Source: UCL

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