The Answer to “Superbugs” May Be in Cinnamon
Bacterial infections that were once easily treated with antibiotics are now becoming resistant to medication, a problem that has led to a possible superbug crisis.
However, there’s good news:
In a new study, researchers have found a compound in cinnamon that could be valuable in the fight against infection-causing pathogens.
Are We Nearing a Scary Post-Antibiotic Era?
Scientists are extremely concerned about antibiotic resistance, and many believe it will ultimately lead to a “post-antibiotic era,” when the majority of pathogenic bacterial strains can no longer be eradicated with medication.
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Amid growing fear that this era isn’t far in the future, researchers are trying to find viable alternatives to antibiotics to combat against superbugs.
Dr. Sanjida Topa, a researcher at the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, has been focusing on investigating natural agents that change the behavior of bacteria instead of killing them.
In a recent study published in the journal Microbiology, she and her colleagues examined how cinnamon impacts pathogens.
“Though many previous studies have reported antimicrobial activity of cinnamon essential oil, it is not widely used in the pharmaceutical industry,” Topa said. “We aimed to search for the molecular activity of this oil, focusing on its major component, cinnamaldehyde. This is the compound that gives cinnamon its flavor.”
The specific bacterial behavior Topa wanted to change was their ability to communicate with each other. She wondered if a disruption in this area could prevent them from forming biofilms, which are sticky films of bacteria, similar to the plaque that accumulates on teeth. Biofilms act as a shield to bacteria and make them unresponsive to even the strongest antibiotics.
“We hypothesised that using natural antimicrobials, such as essential oils, might interfere in biofilm formation. Thus, we focused on the impact of different concentrations of cinnamaldehyde in different biofilm development stages,” she said.
Cinnamaldehyde Broke Down 75 Percent of Biofilms
The team tested the effect of cinnamaldehyde on the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which commonly causes infections in people with impaired immunity, such as cancer patients and diabetics.
They found a sub-lethal concentration broke down 75 percent of the biofilms.
It also suppressed the formation of biofilms and hindered the bacteria from spreading.
“Humans have a long history of using natural products to treat infections, and there is a renewed focus on such antimicrobial compounds. Natural products may offer a promising solution to this problem,” Topa said.
The new study builds on other research of cinnamon’s effects on infections. Here are a few earlier findings:
- An investigation presented at the 2015 American Society for Microbiology Annual Meeting suggested the spice may have antiviral properties.
- A study published in 1995 in Allergy showed cinnamon bark oil was effective for treating fungal infections of the respiratory tract.
- Research published in 2006 in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine found cinnamaldehyde had antimicrobial activity against a broad spectrum of infection-causing organisms.
While cinnamon hasn’t been extensively studied, the few experiments on it are encouraging and show the spice might offer hope for treating superbugs.
Experts predict antibiotic-resistant infections will kill 10 million people each year by 2050.
Once antibiotics become totally ineffective, the World Health Organization warns that common surgeries like hip replacements and C-sections could become very dangerous. Hopefully this is all motivation to use antibiotics very selectively, and as infrequently as possible.