You either love it or you hate it, according to the slogan.
And if you are a Marmite fan, the good news is that one of its main ingredients may fight superbugs.
A study found that at very high doses, vitamin B3, also known as niacin, drastically increases the body’s ability to fight the MRSA bacterium, which can cause life-threatening infections if it enters the bloodstream via wounds.
US researchers believe the ingredient – which is also found in beer, bread and other foods containing yeast – could be used to develop new drugs.
Researchers carried out a number of experiments on both rats and human blood, the results of which were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Overall they found that high doses of vitamin B3 increased the number of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that kills bacteria.
Adrian Gombart, of Oregon State University, said: ‘This is potentially very significant, although we still need to do human studies. It’s a way to tap into the power of the innate immune system and stimulate it to provide a more powerful and natural response.’
But the scientists urged caution, as the research used extremely high doses of the vitamin – far more than is in Marmite or vitamin supplements.
Co-author Dr George Liu, also from Oregon State University, said: ‘This vitamin is surprisingly effective in fighting off and protecting against one of today’s most concerning public health threats.’
Dr Gombart stressed that so far there was no evidence to suggest normal diets or conventional-strength B3 supplements could help prevent or treat bacterial infections.
Ten years ago he discovered a human genetic mutation that makes people more vulnerable to bacterial infections.
Further work showed that niacin has the ability to “turn on” anti-microbial genes that help the immune system fight off bacteria.