Bee bacteria may be an antibiotic alternative

Bacteria found in honeybees could be used as an alternative to antibiotics and in the fight against antibiotic-resistant strains of MRSA, scientists have claimed.

For millenia, raw unmanufactured honey has been used to treat infections.

Scientists believe its effectiveness could lie in a unique formula comprised of 13 types of lactic acid bacteria found in the stomachs of bees. The bacteria, which are no longer active in shop-bought honey, produce a myriad of active anti-microbial compounds.

The findings could be vital both in developing countries, where fresh honey is easily available, as well as for Western countries where antibiotic resistance is an increasingly concerning issue.

By applying the bacteria to pathogens found in severe human wounds – including MRSA – scientists from Lund University, Sweden, found that the formula from a bee’s stomach successfully counteracted the infections.

Researchers believe that the formula works so potently because it contains a broad spectrum of active substances, unlike conventional man-made antibiotics.


“Antibiotics are mostly one active substance, effective against only a narrow spectrum of bacteria. When used alive, these 13 lactic acid bacteria produce the right kind of antimicrobial compounds as needed, depending on the threat,” Dr Tobias Olofsson of the Medical Microbiology department at Lund Unviersity explained.

“It seems to have worked well for millions of years of protecting bees’ health and honey against other harmful microorganisms.

“However, since store-bought honey doesn’t contain the living lactic acid bacteria, many of its unique properties have been lost in recent times,” he added.

To take the study forward, scientists will investigate wider clinical use against topical infections, on both humans and animals.

The findings are likely to give further ammunition to bee protection groups, after a separate study found that the use of neonicotinoids – the world’s most commonly used pesticides – damage vital bee populations.

It warned that the pesticides, which are linked to the decline of honeybees and other beneficial organisms including earthworms and butterflies, are having a dramatic impact on ecosystems that support food production and wildlife.

Depression linked to superbug C.diff

People with depression have a higher risk of catching one of the most common and potentially dangerous hospital-acquired infections in the world, a new study suggests.

Clostridium difficile, known as C.diff, is the most rapidly increasing hospital-acquired illness in the Western world. It usually occurs following antibiotic therapy in hospitals, although it can also occur in the community.

Infections arise as a direct result of disturbing gut bacteria following antibiotic treatment. The bug causes diarrhoea, abdominal pain, inflammation of the colon, fever, vomiting and dehydration. It can be particularly dangerous for vulnerable groups, such as elderly hospital patients.

A number of medications are thought to increase the risk of catching the bug, including anti-depressants. Since depression is so common, US scientists decided to look into this further.

They looked at people with and without depression who had been infected with C.diff in hospital and found that overall, those with depression were 36% more likely to catch the bug than those without depression.

These findings applied for a number of depressive disorders.

Age and marital status also appeared to affect risk, with older widows more likely to catch the bug than their married peers.

C. difficile
C. difficile

The scientists then investigated whether certain antidepressants affected the risk of acquiring the bug in hospital. They tested 12 drugs and two – mirtazapine and fluoxetine – appeared to increase the risk. In both cases, the risk was doubled.

The scientists said that it was unclear whether the increased risk was caused by the depression itself or the antidepressants.

“Depression is common worldwide. We have long known that depression is associated with changes in the gastrointestinal system. The interaction between the brain and the gut, called the ‘brain-gut axis’ is fascinating and deserves more study.

“Our finding of a link between depression and C.diff should help us better identify those at risk of infection and perhaps encourage exploration of the underlying brain-gut mechanisms involved,” the team said.

Details of these findings are published in the journal, BMC Medicine.