"NM Honey Beats Manuka at Fighting MRSA", Article in American Bee Journal, April 2012

Friday, April 06, 2012

New Mexico Honey Beats Manuka at Fighting MRSA

Regional Honey and Ca-MRSA (Community Acquired Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus)
American Bee Journal, April 2012

MRSA infections are a well recognized problem in everyday medical practice. Many of these infections involve the skin and can form abscesses. Occasionally, MRSA infections can become invasive and involve the central nervous system, bones, lungs and other body organs. Currently these infections have become resistant to antibiotics that previously were effective. A major concern of the medical community is that resistance patterns might spread to antibiotics in current use such as Vancomycin and others.

Given the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, a research group in San Juan County New Mexico over the last 9 months has been exploring the role of honey in the treatment of these skin infections. The group’s members are R. Stephen Rankin, M.D. (pediatrician at Pinon Family Practice), Joe Pope, M.D. (family physician at Pinon Family Practice), Beth Phillips (Four Corners Research Associates), Don Hyder, PHD. (biologist at San Juan College), and Mary Doshi, MLS, (ASCP) Director, Program in Medical Technology San Juan College. This group represents a collaboration of Pinon Family Practice, San Juan College, and San Juan Regional Medical Center. Dr. Pope and Dr. Rankin are also beekeepers and have a combined experience of over 20 years…

In recent years, in vitro studies have been done on natural honey samples from Northern Ireland and various locations in Africa. These samples have been tested against Ca-MRSA isolates and other Staphylococcal specimens. Results were favorable demonstrating activity against these organisms.

From the United States no testing of honey has been done for regional samples from the Four Corners area. Our in vitro testing, in which we impregnated sterile paper discs with five different honey varieties and the antibiotic Vancomycin, indicates that the varietal honey from Northwest New Mexico has favorable bactericidal activity against MRSA.

In viewing the accompanying photo note the dark areas around each sample. These dark areas, also known as zones of inhibition, represent bactericidal activity. This means the organism, in this case MRSA, is killed as it is exposed to the substance. Vancomycin is the prototypical intravenous antibiotic used in the hospital setting for more serious MRSA infections. Note the favorable zone of inhibition around its disc. In comparison, Lot 1 and Lot 2—the samples of local honey from hives in the vicinity of Farmington, New Mexico—also show a large zone of inhibition. In contrast, the New Zealand Manuka Honey and two samples of clover and wildflower honey from a Farmington health food store show lesser signs of antimicrobial activity as demonstrated by the smaller dark areas around these samples. Also, note the control disc which does not show any zone of inhibition.

The bees and hives from which this Lot 1 and Lot 2 honey come have been managed in a certified naturally grown manner. That is, at no time during the year are the bees exposed to antibiotics, miticides, or chemical treatments of any kind. The emphasis is on raising or purchasing queens (and subsequent worker progeny) that are resistant to mites and diseases. This practice follows the approach of queen breeders such as Mark Spitzig and Melanie Kirby from New Mexico, Dr. Marla Spivak and Gary Reuter from the University of Minnesota, and John Kefuss from France to mention a few examples.

The hives are located in the vicinity of Farmington, New Mexico. The principal honey flow is in late June through most of July. The honey is dark and apparently the nectar source is a wild drought-resistant weed that blooms every year at this time. There is very little exposure to cultivated fields such as clover…

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