Brain and Body

Researchers Discover a Strange Solution in the Fight Against Drug-Resistant Bacteria

February 3, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

Micrograph of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
Photo credit: NIAID

It was under our feet all along.

Let’s put in perspective just how dire the problem with drug-resistant bacteria is: a report released in December 2015, the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, predicts that 300 million people will prematurely die by 2050 if there’s nothing done to address the issue.

Researchers have been working to discover the best way to beat the stubborn bacteria, from new light-activated nanoparticle treatments to bacteria-killing paint, but now they’ve discovered an unlikely potential solution that was under their feet all along — clay.

Mineral Canadian clay, known as Kisameet to be specific, has been used by Canadian Aboriginals for centuries to treat stomach ulcers, arthritis, and skin irritations, according to anecdotal reports.

Now, new research from the University of British Columbia argues that this clay has the ability to kill a group of pathogens that are highly resistant to antibiotics — known as the ESKAPE pathogens: Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter species.

SEE ALSO: Scientists Killed over 90% of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria with New Nanoparticle Treatment

Back in 2008, the ESKAPE pathogens were dubbed responsible for the majority of hospital infections in the US.

“Infections caused by ESKAPE bacteria are essentially untreatable and contribute to increasing mortality in hospitals,” said UBC microbiologist Julian Davies, co-author of the paper published in the journal mBio.

“After 50 years of over-using and misusing antibiotics, ancient medicinals and other natural mineral-based agents may provide new weapons in the battle against multidrug-resistant pathogens,” he says.

The researchers incubated strains of the ESKAPE pathogens with either clay samples or water as a control group. The results showed that 16 strains of the bacteria samples were killed when they were incubated with Kisameet.

Lawrence Lund, president of Kisameet Glacial Clay, a business that aims to market the cosmetic and medicinal potential of the clay, says, “We hope it will lead to the development of a novel and safe antimicrobial that can be added to the diminished arsenal for the fight against the ESKAPE pathogens and other infection-related health issues plaguing the planet.”

So far, there have been no reported toxic side effects associated with human use of the clay, but the next step for the research involves detailed clinical studies and toxicity testing. Fingers crossed that the clay maintains its toxic-free potential and inspires researchers in the race to beat drug-resistant bacteria.

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