Medieval Antibiotic
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Medieval AntibioticDrug companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars to develop a new antibiotic. We seriously need them as bacteria become increasingly drug resistant. So imagine finding a new antibiotic in a centuries old medieval text!

The ninth century British tome held an eye salve that not only works but works against one of today’s superbacteria, Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA. When translated, the recipe calls for equal parts garlic, onion or leek, minced in a mortar for two minutes and mixed with wine from an historic English vineyard. To this cow bile salts are dissolved and distilled water added. The mixture is aged in a brass vessel for nine days and filtered through a cloth and put into a horn. The salve is applied to the eye with a feather.

Microbiologists followed the recipe precisely and applied them to artificial wounds or on mice. In each of four batches made, they were shocked to find the salve killed all but one in a thousand MRSA bacteria. Though each of the ingredients in the recipe has some antibacterial activity, it’s unclear why it’s so effective.

Researchers theorize that putting these ingredients together allows them to attack the bacteria on multiple fronts. Another theory is that sitting in the brass vessel allows the potion to undergo chemical reactions that create a new molecule they’ve yet to identify.

This thousand year old potion was created long before bacteria were even identified. So if you think of medieval times as the “dark ages,” evidently it wasn’t so dark after all.