Compound in Garlic to Fight Food-Borne Diseases Better than Antibiotics

By Monica Wilson on May 14, 2012

Garlic is perhaps the most used spice in the world. But aside from its culinary purpose, several studies have shown that garlic is also a potential source of numerous health benefits. Just recently, a new research found that garlic contains a type of compound which is 100 times more potent than antibiotics in treating food-borne illnesses caused mainly by Campylobacter bacterium.

What is Campylobacter bacterium?

Campylobacter bacterium is the most common type of bacteria that is responsible for a wide range of intestinal diseases. The researchers, lead by Dr Xiaonan Lu, reported that in the US alone, around 2.4 million people suffer from digestive disorders due to such type of bacteria. The symptoms include stomach cramp, abdominal pain, fever, and diarrhoea. In the UK, the same bacterium is responsible for most cases of food poisoning.  This condition happens when toxins and other harmful chemicals in water or food are eaten or drunk. The same type of bacteria is also linked to one-third of all Guillain-Barré syndrome cases – a rare disease which can cause paralysis.

Campylobacter is mostly found in untreated water, animal products, and birds. Raw meat, poultry, and unpasteurised milk usually have these bacteria. At present, the most common treatment used to address illnesses caused by campylobacter is antibiotics.

Garlic Compound Better than Antibiotics

Researchers from the Washington State University found a better alternative for antibiotics to address bacteria-related health problems. According to Dr Michael Konkel, study co-author and a postdoctoral researcher who has been studying Jejuni (a type of campylobacter bacteria) for over 25 years – this study is the first step towards developing new strategies in dealing with food-borne illnesses.

Dr Lu and his co-researchers investigated how a garlic-derived compound known as diallyl sulphide can destroy campylobacter bacteria. They tested its effect on the bacteria which are protected by a bio-film that made them 1,000 times more resistant to antibiotics. They were surprised to find out that despite the presence of bio-film; diallyl sulphide was able to eliminate the bacteria. This is because such compound has the capability to penetrate through the film and destroy the bacteria by combining with a sulphur-containing enzyme which then shuts down the cell metabolism (which leads to the death of bacteria).

The most surprising thing is – the compound was shown to be 100 times more effective in killing campylobacter bacteria when compared with the known antibiotics including ciprofloxacin and erythromycin.

Their findings were published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

Call for More Studies

This is not the first time that Dr Lu revealed the amazing effects of diallyl sulphide. Last year, Dr Lu and his team of researchers have published two studies showing how diallyl sulphide and other organosulfur compounds can destroy foot-borne pathogens. But Dr Konkel warned that their study is still in its early stage. He pointed out that while eating garlic has many health benefits, it may not be able to prevent Campylobacter-related diseases such as food poisoning. However, diallyl sulphide can be beneficial in reducing the possibility of campylobacter-contamination in the environment. For instance, it can be used to clean food processing equipment. He added that the same compound may also be used as preservative in packaged foods like deli meats, pasta salads, and more. Simply put, "diallyl sulphide could make food safer to eat ", says Barbara Rasco, a co-author on recent papers.

 

Source of this article:

Washington State University 

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