Maple syrup may make antibiotics more effective

Conventional wisdom says breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and medical science is discovering that maple syrup might be the most important part of breakfast.

Researchers at McGill University in Montreal have made significant progress in increasing the effectiveness of antibiotics using that most precious of breakfast additives. Using an extract from maple syrup purchased in Montreal, the researchers were able to increase the effectiveness of antibiotics in combating bacteria, especially the notoriously resilient class of bacteria called biofilms. The maple syrup extract makes the outer shell of the bacteria weaker, and therefore easier for antibiotics to treat.

Maple syrup working “synergistically” with antibiotics could reduce the amount of antibiotic needed to treat infections, and thereby ease the threat posed by antibiotic overuse.

“We know that in our day and age there is a global crisis of overuse of antibiotics which has led to the development of antibiotic resistance,” researcher Nathalie Tufenkji said in a video on the university’s website explaining the study.

Antibiotic overuse has been a major concern in the medical field for years. Martin Blaser, author of "Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues," argues that overuse of antibiotics makes bacteria more resistant to antibiotics and contributes to the rise of allergies, asthma and obesity by affecting the helpful bacteria in the human body. Because of this concern, the idea that maple syrup can reduce the amount of antibiotics used in treating ailments has the potential to help confront a great many afflictions.

“The findings suggest a potentially simple and effective approach for reducing antibiotic usage,” Tufenkji said. “I could see maple syrup extract being incorporated eventually, for example, into the capsules of antibiotics."

These results are only preliminary, and the university is looking forward to both in vivo testing and clinical trials in the future.

Tufenkji, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Biocolloids and Surfaces, has also studied the properties of cranberry derivatives in combating infection-causing bacteria. The study, which Tufenkji co-authored with postdoctoral fellows Vimal Maisuria and Zeinab Hosseinidoust, will be published in May's issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canada Research Chairs program.

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Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

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