Could Medieval Medicine Remedy Help Create New Antibiotic for Modern Day Infections?

Priscilla Lynch 

August 07, 2020

A medieval medicine recipe using natural antimicrobials from everyday ingredients could be used to create a novel effective antibiotic against the biofilms that infect diabetic foot ulcers, new UK research suggests.

Building on previous research on using medieval remedies to treat MRSA, researchers from the School of Life Sciences at University of Warwick reconstructed a 1000-year-old medieval remedy containing onion, garlic, wine, and bile salts, known as 'Bald's eyesalve', and showed it to have promising antibacterial activity. The team also showed that the mixture caused low levels of damage to human cells.

They found the Bald's eyesalve remedy was effective against a range of Gram-negative and Gram-positive wound pathogens in planktonic culture.

This activity was maintained against the following pathogens grown as biofilms:

  1. Acinetobacter baumanii - commonly associated with infected wounds in combat troops returning from conflict zones.

  2. Stenotrophomonas maltophilia - commonly associated with respiratory infections.

  3. Staphylococcus aureus - a common cause of skin infections including abscesses, respiratory infections such as sinusitis, and food poisoning.

  4. Staphylococcus epidermidis - a common cause of infections involving indwelling foreign devices such as a catheter, surgical wound infections, and bacteraemia in immunocompromised patients.

  5. Streptococcus pyogenes - which causes numerous infections including pharyngitis, tonsillitis, scarlet fever, cellulitis, rheumatic fever and post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis.

All of these bacteria can be found in the biofilms that infect diabetic foot ulcers, which are frequently resistant to antibiotic treatment, the researchers noted.

The Bald's eyesalve mixture’s use of garlic, which contains allicin, can explain activity against planktonic cultures, however garlic alone has no activity against biofilms. Therefore the anti-biofilm activity of Bald's eyesalve cannot be attributed to a single ingredient and requires the combination of all ingredients to achieve full activity, the researchers said.

The study is published in Scientific Reports.


Furner-Pardoe J, Anonye BO, Cain R, Moat J, Ortori CA, Lee C, Barrett DA, Corre C, Harrison F. Anti-biofilm efficacy of a medieval treatment for bacterial infection requires the combination of multiple ingredients. Sci Rep. 2020;10(1):12687. 2020 July 28. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-69273-8. PMID: 32724094. Abstract

'This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.