Researchers at Washington State University have found that a compound in garlic is 100 times more effective than two popular antibiotics at fighting the Campylobacter bacterium, one of the most common causes of intestinal illness. Their work was published recently in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.
The discovery opens the door to new treatments for raw and processed meats and food preparation surfaces.
“This work is very exciting to me because it shows that this compound has the potential to reduce disease-causing bacteria in the environment and in our food supply,” said Xiaonan Lu, a postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the paper.
“This is the first step in developing or thinking about new intervention strategies,” saif Michael Konkel, a co-author who has been researching Campylobacter jejuni for 25 years.
“Campylobacter is simply the most common bacterial cause of food-borne illness in the United States and probably the world,” Konkel said. Some 2.4 million Americans are affected every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with symptoms including diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain and fever.
The bacteria also are responsible for triggering nearly one-third of the cases of a rare paralyzing disorder known as Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Most infections stem from eating raw or undercooked poultry or foods that have been cross-contaminated via surfaces or utensils used to prepare poultry.
Lu and his colleagues looked at the ability of the garlic-derived compound, diallyl sulfide, to kill the bacterium when it is protected by a slimy biofilm that makes it 1,000 times more resistant to antibiotics than the free floating bacterial cell. They found the compound can easily penetrate the protective biofilm and kill bacterial cells by combining with a sulfur-containing enzyme, subsequently changing the enzyme’s function and effectively shutting down cell metabolism.
The researchers found the diallyl sulfide was as effective as 100 times as much of the antibiotics erythromycin and ciprofloxacin and often would work in a fraction of the time.
Two previous works published last year by Lu and WSU colleagues in Applied and Environmental Microbiology and Analytical Chemistry found diallyl sulfide and other organosulfur compounds effectively kill important food-borne pathogens, such as Listeria monocytogenes and Escherichia coli O157:H7.
Konkel cautioned that the recent work is still at the basic stage, well removed from an actual application. While eating garlic is a generally healthy practice, it is unlikely to prevent Campylobacter-related food poisoning.
However, “diallyl sulfide may be useful in reducing the levels of the Campylobacter in the environment and to clean industrial food processing equipment, as the bacterium is found in a biofilm in both settings,” he said.
“Diallyl sulfide could make many foods safer to eat”, said Barbara Rasco, a co-author on all three recent papers and Lu’s advisor for his doctorate in food science. “It can be used to clean food preparation surfaces and as a preservative in packaged foods like potato and pasta salads, coleslaw and deli meats.”
“This would not only extend shelf life but it would also reduce the growth of potentially bad bacteria,” she said.
Lu X, Samuelson DR, Rasco BA, Konkel ME. Antimicrobial effect of diallyl sulphide on Campylobacter jejuni biofilms. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2012 May 1. [Epub ahead of print]
In 1941, a patient could receive 40,000 units of penicillin per day for 4 days and be cured of a case of Pneumococcal pneumonia. Today a patient could be given 24,000,000 units of penicillin per day and still may die of Pneumococcal meningitis. We are presently witnessing a massive, unprecedented, evolutionary change in bacteria. The misuse of antibiotics in health care is the main reason attributed to antibiotic resistance.
Dr. Khem Shahani (1923 -2001) was one of the world’s leading research authorities on the role of Lactobacilli and gastrointestinal bacteria. He published more than 200 peer reviewed scientific articles related to microorganisms and health. During his tenure at UNL, Dr Shahani isolated, developed and optimized the exceptional DDS-1 strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus. He founded Nebraska Cultures, Inc., where he developed strains of friendly flora for use as dietary supplements, was consultant to the World Health Organization, and received numerous awards for his work. Se also article about Dr Shahani on Wikipedia.
“Friendly Bacteria”: The Secret Ingredient to Everyday Good Health
Cultivate Health from Within: Dr. Shahani’s Guide to Probiotics (2005), an educational, eye-opening book on probiotics, is the culmination of four decades of scientific research by Dr. Khem Shahani. Recognized as the foremost pioneer in probiotics, Dr. Shahani’s studies to determine the value of probiotics to humankind resulted in his discovery of the DDS-1 strain of L. acidophilus, which was followed by decades of research proving its superior beneficial properties on our overall health.
Cultivate Health from Within is the culmination of his life’s work. This comprehensive, easy to read book provides a straightforward discussion of such questions as:
- Is the overuse of antibiotics in America resulting in a strain of ‘superbugs,’ which are attacking the general population?
One of the greatest medical advances in the twentieth century is the discovery and use of antibiotics, which are considered to be the ‘drug of choice’ against bacterial and fungal infections. However, we are presently witnessing a massive, unprecedented, evolutionary change in bacteria. The misuse of antibiotics in health care is the main reason attributed to antibiotic resistance. ‘The American Public is drowning in an ocean of antibiotics,’ Dina Khader, M.S, CDN.
- How do probiotics build your immune system?
When the human intestinal system gets out of balance, the unfriendly bacteria produce toxic substances that have detrimental effects on the overall system’s health and function. Probiotics help replenish the amount of ‘healthy bacteria’ in the gut, keeping your body healthy and able to fight off sickness.
- How do probiotics counteract the effects of stress and anxiety?
Prolonged stress responses can shift the balance of friendly bacteria toward more pathogenic species. This shift can be counteracted through the use of probiotics.
- How do the circadian rhythms of the human body impact the ecology in the human gut?
Intestinal microflora are influenced directly by circadian rhythms. To be healthy and have a balanced internal ecology, we need to get plenty of sunshine during the day and sleep at night.
- What are doctors not telling you about probiotic supplements?
Dr. Nigel Plummer, a UK expert on lactic acid bacteria, recommends that any good probiotic supplement should contain at least 1 billion viable cells per daily dose, include an expiration date, contain human L. acidophilus and bifidobacteria, be able to tolerate stomach acid and bile and be capable of colonizing the human intestine.
- Are all probiotics alike?
During the past 25 years, ongoing research on probiotics with more than 200 acidophilus products from the U.S. and abroad were examined. Up to 80% did not measure up to numerical claims, and in fact, nearly half had less than 10% of the claimed ingredients.