Maple syrup is once again making headlines for being the rockstar condiment that every Canadian knows it is, but it's
not the culinary world that's buzzing this time it's the medical world. Newly released research from McGill University
in Montreal suggests that concentrated maple syrup extract may actually help fight bacterial infections, potentially
reducing the need for antibiotics around the world.
"Combining maple syrup extract with common antibiotics could increase the microbes' susceptibility, leading to lower
antibiotic usage," reads a press release issued by the university. "Overuse of antibiotics fuels the emergence of
drug-resistant bacteria, which has become a major public-health concern worldwide."
The release explains how scientists at the school's department of chemical engineering used maple syrup samples,
purchased at local markets in Montreal, to prepare a "concentrated extract of maple syrup that consists mainly of
phenolic compounds," a class of aromatic organic chemicals.
Researchers then tested this extract's effect on "infection-causing strains of certain bacteria, including E. coli and
Proteus mirabilis (a common cause of urinary tract infection)." While the team admits in their findings that the extract
was only "mildly effective" in combating bacteria on its own, it was found to be quite effective when combined with antibiotics.
More specifically, the extract was observed acting "synergistically with antibiotics" to destroy the "resistant communities
of bacteria" commonly present in difficult-to-treat infections (like those involving the urinary tract.)
These bacterial communities, known as "biofilms," are notoriously resistant to antibiotic treatment — a problem that
costs the U.S. healthcare system more than $5 billion every year according to a 2008 paper by University of Washington
bioengineering professor James Bryers.
Does maple syrup hold the key to beating drug-resistant bacteria?
"We would have to do in vivo tests, and eventually clinical trials, before we can say what the effect would be in
humans," said lead researcher Nathalie Tufenkji in a statement. "But the findings suggest a potentially simple and
effective approach for reducing antibiotic usage. I could see maple syrup extract being incorporated eventually,
for example, into the capsules of antibiotics."