Honey, I Shrunk the Antimicrobial Resistance


Today, an estimated 700,000 deaths per year worldwide are attributable to antimicrobial resistance. Compared with cancer (8.2m), diabetes (1.5m), and road traffic accidents (1.2m), these numbers are relatively small, which has somewhat overshadowed the looming threat. England’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, has put it quite simply: if antibiotics lose their effectiveness it would spell “the end of modern medicine."

Dr Sophie Cox, Lecturer in Healthcare Technologies at the Healthcare Technologies Institute, explains why her research team, in collaboration with Matoke Holdings, are using honey to fight antimicrobial resistance.

“An opportunity presented itself through a serendipitous meeting with British biotechnology company, Matoke Holdings, which has bioengineered a promising antimicrobial originally inspired by honey.

“Yes, you did read that right – honey. The sticky stuff you put on your toast in the morning was the natural inspiration for Matoke Holdings research and development. The idea of using honey as an antimicrobial may not come as such a surprise – it has in fact been used in medicine for over 5,000 years.

“There are even reports of its use in ancient Egypt for wound management. It has been established that the antimicrobial mechanisms of action are based on honey’s acidity, its osmotic effect that can draw essential water away from bacterial cells, and most prominently the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). These chemically-reactive species contain oxygen, including peroxides (R-O-O-R), such as hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). Notably, it is also known that ROS are produced as part of our bodies’ natural defence mechanisms to many different types of infections.”

How is the honey used? Read the full article on The Chemical Engineer website: