Essential oils to fight superbugs

Mar 30, 2010

Essential oils could be a cheap and effective alternative to antibiotics and potentially used to combat drug-resistant hospital superbugs, according to research presented at the Society for General Microbiology's spring meeting in Edinburgh this week.

Professor Yiannis Samaras and Dr Effimia Eriotou, from the Technological Educational Institute of Ionian Islands, in Greece, who led the research, tested the antimicrobial activity of eight plant essential oils. They found that thyme essential oil was the most effective and was able to almost completely eliminate bacteria within 60 minutes.

The essential oils of thyme and cinnamon were found to be particularly efficient antibacterial agents against a range of Staphylococcus species. Strains of these bacteria are common inhabitants of the skin and some may cause infection in immunocompromised individuals. Drug-resistant strains, such as meticillin-resistant (MRSA) are extremely difficult to treat. "Not only are essential oils a cheap and effective treatment option for antibiotic-resistant strains, but decreased use of antibiotics will help minimise the risk of new strains of antibiotic resistant micro-organisms emerging," said Professor Samaras.

Essential oils have been recognised for hundreds of years for their therapeutic properties, although very little is still known about how they exert their antimicrobial effects in humans. Australian aborigines used Tea tree oil to treat colds, sore throats, skin infections and insect bites and the remedy was sold commercially as a medicinal antiseptic from the early 20th century. Various scientific studies have demonstrated that essential oils are not only well tolerated, but are effective against a range of bacterial and . Their therapeutic value has been shown for the treatment of a variety of conditions, including acne, dandruff, and oral infections.

The Greek team believes essential oils could have diverse medical and industrial applications. "The oils - or their active ingredients - could be easily incorporated into antimicrobial creams or gels for external application. In the food industry the impregnation of food packaging with essential oils has already been successfully trialled. They could also be included in food stuffs to replace synthetic chemicals that act as preservatives," they said.

Explore further: 'Hairclip' protein mechanism explained

Provided by Society for General Microbiology

4.3 /5 (4 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Thyme oil can inhibit COX2 and suppress inflammation

Jan 13, 2010

For those who do not drink, researchers have found that six essential oils -from thyme, clove, rose, eucalyptus, fennel and bergamot—can suppress the inflammatory COX-2 enzyme, in a manner similar to resveratrol, the chemical ...

Bacteria manage perfume oil production from grass

Oct 31, 2008

Scientists in Italy have found bacteria in the root of a tropical grass whose oils have been used in the cosmetic and perfumery industries. These bacteria seem to promote the production of essential oils, but also they change ...

New antibiotic beats superbugs at their own game

Jul 03, 2008

The problem with antibiotics is that, eventually, bacteria outsmart them and become resistant. But by targeting the gene that confers such resistance, a new drug may be able to finally outwit them. Rockefeller ...

Marijuana ingredients show promise in battling superbugs

Sep 08, 2008

Substances in marijuana show promise for fighting deadly drug-resistant bacterial infections, including so-called "superbugs," without causing the drug's mood-altering effects, scientists in Italy and the United Kingdom are ...

Edible food wrap kills deadly E. coli bacteria

Nov 16, 2006

Researchers have improved upon an edible coating for fresh fruits and vegetables by enabling it to kill deadly E. coli bacteria while also providing a flavor-boost to food. Composed of apple puree and oregano ...

MRSA head and neck infections increase among children

Jan 19, 2009

Rates of antibiotic-resistant head and neck infections increased in pediatric patients nationwide between 2001 and 2006, according to a report in the January issue of Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, one of ...

Recommended for you

'Hairclip' protein mechanism explained

5 hours ago

Research led by the Teichmann group on the Wellcome Genome Campus has identified a fundamental mechanism for controlling protein function. Published in the journal Science, the discovery has wide-ranging implications for bi ...

Discovery in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria

7 hours ago

For four years, researchers at Universite catholique de Louvain have been trying to find out how bacteria can withstand antibiotics, so as to be able to attack them more effectively. These researchers now understand how one ...

Stem cells born out of indecision

7 hours ago

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have gained new insight into embryonic stem cells and how blocking their ability to make choices explains why they stay as stem cells in culture. The results have just been published ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.