Maple syrup, a longtime favorite condiment, is now being considered for more than just its delicious taste. Canadian researchers led by chemical engineer Nathalie Tufenkji at McGill University, Montreal, have revealed a new use for the classic breakfast topping: helping make bacteria more susceptible to antibiotics.
First, the scientists extracted a certain type of aromatic organic chemical from maple syrup, called phenolic compounds. These compounds are known to have antiseptic and antioxidant properties and can also help plants grow by protecting them against pathogens. Theoretically, phenolic maple syrup extract would have anti-bacterial properties.
Then, the scientists tested the extract’s effects on samples of various bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Proteus mirabilis, both of which can cause infections in humans, by exposing the bacteria to the extract. They found that the maple syrup extract alone worked moderately well against the bacterial samples, but the combination of maple syrup and antibiotics produced more effective results. The study used lab-based sources of bacteria, though the researchers hope that similar results would occur in the bacteria in human patients.
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Maple syrup makes the bacterial cell membranes more porous; the skin around each bacterial cell opens up to allow easier access for antibiotics to enter and take effect. Additionally, while bacterial cell membranes typically have pumps that dispel antibiotics, the extract shuts down those pumps.
An issue regarding the use of antibiotics is the development of antibiotic resistance in newer strains of bacteria. That is, bacteria evolve to be less susceptible to the antibiotics. However, the maple syrup extract works to suppress the resistance of the bacteria. This also helps to destroy the communities of biofilms that may be antibiotic resistant. If the biofilm is considered a wall, maple syrup could potentially be an aid in its demolition.
If future trials show that the experiment can work just as well against bacteria in human hosts, antibiotics could be administered with the phenolic compound extract from maple syrup. The development of this two-step drug delivery could revolutionize the way bacterial infections are treated across the globe.
Feature Image Source: DWilliams