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High-tech Honey Sandwich Could Help Fight Superbug Infections

Superbugs are a strain of bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotic drugs. Antibiotic resistance is a naturally occurring phenomenon that can be slowed down, but not stopped. That is, with time, the bacteria adapt to the antibiotics, making standard treatments for bacterial infections less effective, and in some cases, ineffective.

Having poor hygiene, living in unsanitary conditions, mishandling food and using and misusing antibiotics are deemed to be the common factors that may accelerate the emergence and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In a recent study conducted by a group of researchers, it was found that high-tech honey sandwiches can help limit the growth of bacteria. Let's get to know more about the study here.

What Are High-tech Honey Sandwiches?

Regarded as the latest weapon used in the fight against superbug infections, high-tech honey sandwiches are made from manuka honey, spread between layers of surgical mesh. Manuka honey is made by bees that pollinate the native manuka bush. The honey is effective for the treatment of various infections and other health conditions [1] .

The major antibacterial component in manuka honey is methylglyoxal (MG), causing the honey its antibiotic effect. Manuka honey is asserted to be beneficial in preventing and treating cancer, reducing high cholesterol, reducing inflammation inside the body, treating diabetes, treating eye, ear, and sinus infections, and treating gastrointestinal problems [2] [3] .

Various studies support these aforementioned assertions, with many pointing out the benefit of the honey that, unlike antibiotics, manuka honey does not cause the development of superbugs which normally develop after repeated exposure to common antibiotics [4] .

Owing to this property, the researchers made use of manuka honey to help prevent a method which could limit the growth of superbugs.

Manuka Honey Prevents Post-surgery Infections

Spreading tiny amounts of manuka honey between layers of the surgical mesh can help fight the infection. Meshes are used to promote soft tissue healing after surgery and are commonly used in operations for hernias.

However, the use of meshes can increase the risk of infection as bacteria can get hold inside the body by forming a biofilm on the mesh. These infections are treated with antibiotics usually, however, the constant use of antibiotics can result in the bugs becoming increasingly resistant - resulting in the researchers looking for alternative methods that can be effective without causing side effects [5] .

The group of researchers at Newcastle and Ulster universities have developed a way of sandwiching eight nano-layers of Manuka honey, with a negative charge, between eight layers of a positively charged polymer - which not only promotes healing but also prevents the onset of infections [6] .

The lead researcher of the study said, "mesh is implanted inside the body to provide stability while the internal tissues heal but, unfortunately, it also provides the perfect surface for bacteria to grow on.....but by sandwiching the honey in a multilayer coating on the mesh surface and slowly releasing it, the aim is to inhibit the growth of the bacteria and stop the infection before it even starts."

Manuka Honey - An Alternative To Antibiotics

Honey has been used in the treatment of various bodily ailments and especially wounds for years, however, this is the first time it has been proven to be effective for fighting infection in cells from inside the body.

Several varieties of honey are said to have antibiotic properties because it contains chemicals which produce hydrogen peroxide [7] . It is the presence of methylglyoxal (MG) which makes manuka honey an affective alternative for antibiotics in preventing the onset of post-surgery infections.

On A Final Note...

The researchers pointed out that the study has aided in developing a promising combination of a naturally-derived antibacterial agent with a nanotechnology approach that can promote healing, without any side effects. The study results have aided in putting forth the possibility of the design and development of novel medical devices with advanced functionality - opening up a better chance of healing and recovery.

View Article References
  1. [1] Evensky, J. A., Green, M. S., Stein, S. H., Bowlin, G. L., & Hollis, W. (2019). Regenerative Properties of a Manuka Honey Incorporated Membrane in a Porcine Model. Online Journal of Dentistry & Oral Health, 1(4), 1-7.
  2. [2] Combarros-Fuertes, P., Estevinho, L. M., Teixeira-Santos, R., Rodrigues, A. G., Pina-Vaz, C., Fresno, J. M., & Tornadijo, M. E. (2019). Evaluation of Physiological Effects Induced by Manuka Honey Upon Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. Microorganisms, 7(8), 258.
  3. [3] Nguyen, H., Nguyen, M., Hassan, A., Chandran, V., & Nguyen, Q. H. (2019). Paring Manuka Honey 10+ with Tumeric Powder and IV Antibiotic May Treat Complicated Infective Endocarditis Naturally. Sch J Appl Sci Res, 2, 06-09.
  4. [4] Cianciosi, D., Forbes-Hernández, T. Y., Giampieri, F., Zhang, J., Ansary, J., Pacetti, M., ... & Battino, M. (2019). Effect of In vitro Gastrointestinal Digestion on the Bioaccessibility of Phenolic Compounds and Antioxidant Activity of Manuka Honey. Efood.
  5. [5] Gaurav, K. (2019, December 04). Researchers Find Honey 'sandwiches' Can Fight Superbug Infections. Retrieved from,
  6. [6] Mancuso, E., Tonda-Turo, C., Ceresa, C., Pensabene, V., Connell, S. D., Fracchia, L., & Gentile, P. (2019). Potential of Manuka Honey as a natural polyelectrolyte to develop biomimetic nanostructured meshes with antimicrobial properties. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology.
  7. [7] Roberts, A. E. L., Powell, L. C., Pritchard, M. F., Thomas, D. W., & Jenkins, R. E. (2019). Anti-pseudomonad activity of manuka honey and antibiotics in a specialised ex vivo model simulating cystic fibrosis lung infection. Frontiers in microbiology, 10, 869.
Read more about: infections superbugs
Story first published: Monday, December 9, 2019, 12:45 [IST]
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