Garlic extract may help cystic fibrosis patients fight lung infection: Study

By Annie Harrison-Dunn contact

- Last updated on GMT

Could garlic extract help people with cystic fibrosis fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria? Photo credit: Rebecca Siegel
Could garlic extract help people with cystic fibrosis fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria? Photo credit: Rebecca Siegel

Related tags: Garlic

Allicin extracted from garlic may help fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria that cause lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis, according to researchers from the University of Edinburgh.

Burkholderia cepacia​ complex (Bcc) was said to be a key cause of potentially fatal lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients, treatment for which currently required the combination of three or four different antibiotics.

The researchers said the study, published in the journal PlosOne​, was to their knowledge the first evidence of allicin and allicin-containing garlic extracts’ ability to inhibit and kill Bcc. Allicin is a thiosulphinate present in crushed garlic bulbs.

The data pointed in particular to pure allicin and, more importantly, allicin in aqueous garlic extracts.  

Professor John Govan, who co-led the study, said: "At a time when novel antimicrobial agents are urgently required, chemical and microbiological research has the potential to unlock the rich reservoir of antimicrobial compounds present in plants such as garlic.

“Allicin-containing compounds merit further investigation as adjuncts to existing treatments for infections caused by Bcc."

They said the therapeutic potential and complex chemistry of alliums like garlic (Allium sativum​ L​) was well documented but remained “enigmatic”​.

Further research into the mechanisms behind this effect was now required, yet they pointed to previous research that suggested allicin reacted with amino acid cysteine to stop antimicrobial activity.

Responding to the findings, senior research manager at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, Dr Anoushka de Almeida, told NutraIngredients it welcomed the progress these results made in the fight against antibiotic resistance. 

“Antibacterial resistance is one of the biggest challenges facing modern medicine and people with cystic fibrosis are particularly susceptible to infections that require weeks of antibiotics, and action is needed by the scientist and medical community to tackle the issue of increasingly ineffective treatments. 

“Even though research into how garlic compounds can be effective in killing certain bacteria is still at an early stage, this study opens the door to further investigations into allicin and its antimicrobial properties."

Source: Plos One
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0112726
“Garlic Revisited: Antimicrobial Activity of Allicin-Containing Garlic Extracts against Burkholderia cepacia Complex”
Authors: D. Wallock-Richards, C. J. Doherty, L. Doherty, D. J. Clarke, M. Place, J. R. W. Govan, D. J. Campopiano 

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