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Willow herb extracts may be able to curb the rise of multi-drug resistant bacteria

Antibiotics overuse

(NaturalNews) Although antibiotics have helped humanity prevent bacterial infections in the short-term, their overuse and misuse have spurred major health problems in the long-term. Many infections have evolved resistance to antibiotics, giving rise to the dawn of superbugs. As a result, some scientists are turning to nature to address the problem of global antibiotic resistance. According to a new study published online in the journal Open Chemistry, willow herb extracts could serve as an antidote in therapies against multi-drug resistant bacteria.

Antibiotic resistance is a major concern among health professionals, and poses an existential threat to the public at large. In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. This led to the introduction of antibiotics, which helped reduce the number of deaths from infection. Unfortunately, the overuse of antibiotics fostered the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Many strains of bacteria are becoming resistant to even the most potent antibiotics, triggering deadly infections. These infections account for nearly 23,000 deaths in the U.S. alone.

The overuse and misuse of antibiotics

The World Health Organization (WHO) has noted that several common infections that plague humanity are fueled by antibiotic resistance, including urinary tract infections, pneumonia and bloodstream infections. According to the WHO's website, "A high percentage of hospital-acquired infections are caused by highly resistant bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria." Antimicrobial resistance could be even more deadly than cancer by 2050, reports the Digital Journal.

Bacteria are excellent at adapting to their environment. Usually brought about by genetic mutations, antibiotic resistance is accelerated by the over-prescription of antibiotics. They are also pumped into animals on factory farms in order to producer leaner meat. Reuters reported that 80 percent of all antibiotics are given to livestock in the United States.

With regard to the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms, Malaysian medic Dr. S. Subramaniam recently advised, "We should take cognizance of the fact that there is high usage of antibiotics in agriculture and evidence that resistance that emerged from agriculture use can be transferred to man and may cause treatment failure of clinically significant infections."

Going back to nature to address the problem

In addressing the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, nature may have the answer. A common herb known as the willow herb could help mitigate antibiotic use and ease the severity of side-effects in treatments against multi-drug resistant microorganisms. In particular, a recent study suggests that an extract of willow herb, in combination with conventional antimicrobials, can help increase the effectiveness of treatments against specific pathogens.

The Willow herbs belong to the order Onagraceae, and have long been prized for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. They've been known to ease problems associated with the prostate gland and urinary tract. New tests verify that common antibiotics, in conjunction with great willow herb extracts, may be used to help treat bacterial and fungal infections.

The research was conducted in Romania, where scientists from the National Institute of Chemical-Pharmaceutical R&D, ICCF-Bucharest, tested herb extracts in combination with antimicrobials. The researchers then screened the extracts, which were chock full of phenolic acids and flavonoids, for their antibacterial effect against specific bacterial and fungal strains. The team observed a significant syngergistic effect that warranted further investigation.

The authors of the study suggest that willow herb extracts could help reduce antibiotic doses, thereby decelerating antibacterial resistance among micro-organisms. Some bacterial and fungal infections can be better treated with willow herb extract than with therapies consisting of antibiotics alone.

"These results could be useful for the area of herbal medicines and as potential candidates in managing microbial resistance, but also for physicians and pharmacists using combined antibacterial therapy," the authors of the study concluded.

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