Scientists discover medieval medicine that could be a useful future antibiotic

Scientists expect drug resistance to result in 10 million deaths by 2050

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A 1,000-year-old natural remedy made from onion, garlic, wine and bile salts has shown antibacterial potential, with a promise to treat diabetic foot and leg infections, new research published Tuesday suggested. The medieval remedy was discovered by a team of UK researchers in a manuscript called the Bald’s leech book, a CNN report reads.

The leatherbound book currently in the British Library in London contains other ancient recipes for medicines, salves and treatments.

Known as Bald's eyesalve, the treatment has the potential to tackle biofilm infections—communities of bacteria which resist antibiotics—making them much harder to treat, the researchers said.

Scientists expect drug resistance to result in 10 million deaths by 2050 and have been looking high and low for alternatives to antibiotics.

Biofilm infections are estimated to cost the United Kingdom alone more than 1 billion pounds every year, says a study by the scientists from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick. The scientists also feel that research into natural antimicrobials could provide candidates to fill the antibiotic discovery gap.

The medieval concoction, which was first identified as being of potential help in the battle against superbugs in 2015, sheds light on how it works and how it might be applied in practice as per the latest study in the journal Scientific Reports.

It has always been known that antibiotic resistance is real and that in the years to come, we may no longer be able to treat and cure many of the infections we once could as bacteria outsmart our most sophisticated drugs.

One of the authors of the study, Freya Harrison, a microbiologist at the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick said, “When you read it as a microbiologist, you think that it's got to do something because every ingredient in it has some antibacterial activity when you test it in a test tube. It seemed like a sensible one to put together.”

"We think it has particular promise for treating diabetic foot infections. They are the ultimate, super-resistant biofilm infection. They are a huge health and economic burden. They really can become untreatable," she added.

Harrison, who has a passion for medieval history and enjoys historical reenactment, teamed with a former colleague, a specialist in Old English at the University of Nottingham after she heard about the book.