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Could maple syrup help cut use of antibiotics?

Maple syrup covered waffles

Another reason to have those waffles… well maybe. Researchers have found that a concentrated extract of maple syrup makes disease-causing bacteria more susceptible to antibiotics. In an ever increasing antibiotic resistant world, this news is almost as sweet as the syrup (okay no more bad puns). The findings suggest that combining maple syrup extract with common antibiotics could increase the microbes’ susceptibility, leading to lower antibiotic usage.

Overuse of antibiotics fuels the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria, which has become a major public-health concern worldwide. This has made it harder for hospitals to treat patients, who may or may not have a drug-resistant infection.

The research team prepared a concentrated extract of maple syrup that consists mainly of phenolic compounds. Maple syrup, made by concentrating the sap from North American maple trees, is a rich source of phenolic compounds.

The team tested the extract’s effect in the laboratory on infection-causing strains of certain bacteria, including E. coli and Proteus mirabilis (a common cause of urinary tract infection). By itself, the extract was mildly effective in combating bacteria. But the maple syrup extract was particularly effective when applied in combination with antibiotics. The extract also acted synergistically with antibiotics in destroying resistant communities of bacteria known as biofilms, which are common in difficult-to-treat infections, such as catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

“We would have to do in vivo tests, and eventually clinical trials, before we can say what the effect would be in humans,” Prof. Nathalie Tufenkji’s says.

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

The scientists also found that the extract affects the gene expression of the bacteria, by repressing a number of genes linked with antibiotic resistance and virulence.

It should be noted that all maple syrup samples used in the study were purchased at local markets in Montreal, then frozen until the beginning of each experiment, which involved a series of steps to produce the phenolic-rich extract. The researchers have also studied the potential for cranberry derivatives to fight infection-causing bacteria.

Sources:
Maisuria, V., Hosseinidoust, Z., & Tufenkji, N. (2015). Polyphenolic Extract from Maple Syrup Potentiates Antibiotic Susceptibility and Reduces Biofilm Formation of Pathogenic Bacteria Applied and Environmental Microbiology DOI: 10.1128/AEM.00239-15

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