Scientists from Cardiff University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the National Botanic Garden of Wales have been working together to identify plant-derived drugs which could be used to treat antibiotic resistant hospital pathogens.
Numerous species of bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics over the past few decades, so there is an increasing need to prevent and control the emergence and spread of antimicrobial-resistance in hospitals.
For thousands of years, honey has been used to treat sore throats, wounds and infections, due to compounds present in the honey that kill bacteria. These properties are the result of a range of factors including the phytochemicals donated by the plants. The contribution of these phytochemicals to the overall antibacterial activity of a particular honey depends on the properties of the plants visited by the bees. For example, Manuka honey from New Zealand is produced when bees forage on the Manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium), a plant that produces a compound with potent antibacterial properties. The search to identify other antibacterial phytochemicals has led to the screening of honey produced by bees that have fed on plants from a variety of UK habitats.
“Our plan was to employ bees as private investigators and to send them out to interview every flowering plant in the country. During each visit, they collect a forensic material in the form of nectar containing phytochemicals – some of which may be antibacterial – and pollen which holds the DNA fingerprint of the plant,” Dr Hawkins explained.
Dr Hawkins and the team took the antibacterial analysis of 250 samples of honey and DNA barcoded 20 of these. They were successful in using bees as a natural drug discovery tool. Compounds were present in honey found in the back garden of a beekeeper from Tywyn in Gwynedd that can kill microorganisms and combat MRSA.
By breaking the DNA code, the team could find out which plants the bees are using to create the honey. The top 20 plants in antibacterial honey have been identified, along with other novel drugs that are currently in the process of analysis.
Using the knowledge from this project, it is possible to create a special honey by leading bees to plants with strong antibacterial elements. Dr Baillie and his team are now trying to put these plants in as many places as possible for the bees to feed upon.
Following on from this ,is the aim to create a number of inspirational Urban ‘Roof’ gardens (at high and low level) through collaboration of students, communities and charities working together to transform unused areas of land for community benefit. This will include increasing biodiversity through use of native plants, wildflowers and vegetables which will benefit pollinators through habitat connectivity. We want to inspire interest in green spaces by turning unsightly concrete / drab areas into visually stimulating green space of tranquillity that provide rewarding activities as well as benefiting pollinators and wildlife in the urban environment.
We have obtained a plot of land from the university and we are looking for volunteers to help out with a variety of tasks to implement the “Bees” project there, including: Assessing the area for optimum sunlight locations, Scoping and planning the structure of new garden – £50 prize up for grabs! (Architecture students only, contact xingy5@Cardiff.ac.uk), Clearing and preparing the area for plantation, Assembling the pallets, plant rolls and plants (If you can spare a few hours in January for the actual planting it would be much appreciated, many hands make light work!) and finally the
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