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Close up of bees on a honeycomb

For millennia, humans have used the healing power of plants, metals and animals. Developments in medicine and pharmacy in the twentieth century have seen a move away from traditional approaches, leading scientists to lose touch with the accumulated knowledge of the past.

To reconnect with the past and to identify compounds with activity against antibiotic resistant superbugs, we recreated honey based treatments recorded in Materia Medica, a medical text dating from the 1st Century and the book of Myddfai, a Welsh medieval formulary. This was done in partnership with Dr Laurence Totelin from the School of History, Archaeology and Religion.

Using this approach, we identified two remedies which demonstrate activity against clinically relevant antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Next steps

In future work we will determine the basis of this activity with a view to developing new treatments for this problematic pathogen.

We also plan to use these results of this work to support our public engagement activities and to underpin the development of teaching material which will explore how traditional and contemporary medicine share a common foundation.

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If you are interested in this research, get in touch.