Danish scientists are reporting a potentially big health breakthrough deep in the heart of the Chilean rainforest. They have found a plant there that might fight the growing problem of drug-resistant bacteria — caused by overuse of antibiotics for decades.
In a research project at the University of Copenhagen, a compound was discovered that targets a particular resistance mechanism in yellow staphylococci. The development of resistance in these specific bacteria is extremely rapid. Bacterial strains that do not respond to treatment have already been found here in the U.S.
The source of this compound: the Chilean avocado. A substance in it is activated when combined with antibiotic treatment. Bacteria that resist these important drugs are able to basically pump out antibiotics rather than succumb to them. The avocado substance stops this pumping action, so that the bacteria’s defense mechanisms are broken down and the antibiotic treatment can work.
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In Chile, folk healers use the leaves of the avocado plant to heal wounds. But the new study finds a different and amazing use for the plant. The researchers say that the avocado compound can strengthen an antibiotic at least eight-fold. They believe it has huge potential that we might see in the coming future in a drug or alternative remedy that fights resistant staphylococci.
The researcher wants to create a commercial product, which he believes will benefit the native people of Chile who use the avocado plant for its wound-healing abilities.
As of now, the number of bacteria that are resisting antibiotics is growing at an alarming rate. Yellow staphylococci – “Staphylococcus aureus” — is the most common cause of infection in wounds from an operation. This form of bacteria can also be the cause of many diseases, from abscesses and food poisoning to life-threatening infections. Staphylococcus aureus has actually been a major problem in hospitals worldwide since the 1940s, and up to now the drug industry has managed to develop new antibiotics in step with the increasingly aggressive behavior of the bacteria.
But, unfortunately, there is not, researchers claim, enough research going on to find new antibiotics. The problem, from a drug industry standpoint, is simple. Money. There is more money in drugs to treat chronic diseases such as diabetes and arthritis. So in this space, bacteria are increasingly becoming resilient and treatment options are scarce.
As usual, alternative medicine is one place where everyone starts looking for answers. This time, it’s the Chilean avocado.