Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization
(WHO) have deemed antibiotic resistance a global public health concern."
Now, researchers from McGill University in Quebec, in collaboration with the Institut national
de la recherche scientifique" (INRS) in Montreal — both in Canada — have decided to explore
the potential of cranberries for fighting off infections.
Nathalie Tufenkji, a professor of chemical engineering at McGill, is the lead author of the study.
Prof. Tufenkji and colleagues found that a cranberry extract can make bacteria more sensitive to
antibiotics. The authors published their findings in the journal Advanced Science.
The widespread belief that cranberry juice helps treat urinary tract infections (UTIs) prompted
Prof. Tufenkji and team to study cranberries. So, the scientists chose UTI-, pneumonia-, and
gastroenteritis-causing bacteria, including Proteus mirabilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and
Escherichia coli for their study.
They applied cranberry extract to bacterial cultures and saw that the cranberry molecules made
the cultures more sensitive to antibiotics in two ways.
Firstly, cranberry extract made the membranes of the bacteria more permeable to the antibiotic.
Secondly, the cranberry extract disrupted the mechanism that bacteria typically use to eliminate
Normally, when we treat the bacteria with an antibiotic in the lab, the bacteria eventually
acquire resistance over time," reports Prof. Tufenkji. But when we simultaneously treated the
bacteria with an antibiotic and the cranberry extract, no resistance developed. We were very
surprised by this, and we see it as an important opportunity."
The dual action of the cranberry extract made it effective even at lower doses. After discovering
these mechanisms in cell cultures, the scientists replicated their findings in an insect model.
These are really exciting results, says study co-author Eric Déziel, a professor of microbiology
at INRS, who goes on to explain: The activity is generated by molecules called
proanthocyanidins. There are several different kinds of proanthocyanidins, and they may work
together to deliver this outcome. We' ll need to do more research to determine which ones are
most active in synergy with the antibiotic.
Prof. Tufenkji echoes the same idea, saying: "We are eager to pursue this research further. Our
hope is to reduce the doses of antibiotics required in human and veterinary medicine as part of
efforts to combat antibiotic resistance."
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