A team of researchers at the University of Surrey have found that green tea holds the answer to the threat of drug-resistant superbugs.
The scientists conducted a number of experiments to reveal that a specific antibiotic, which was increasingly becoming ineffective against serious infections, was reinforced when used in conjunction with an agent found in copious amounts in green tea.
The results of the study were published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology, and focused specifically on the P. aeruginosa pathogen, which is known to be behind a number of respiratory and bloodstream infections, and the aztreonam antibiotic, which is the main drug used to treat the infections.
The epigallocatechin (EGCG) agent in the tea was found to be up to 31 per cent more successful in destroying toxic bacteria when combined with the antibiotic, in comparison to just the drug alone.
EGCG, a natural phenol antioxidant and catechin, is known to occur in large quantities in green tea, but also in black tea leaves, apple skins, onions and plums, albeit in smaller amounts.
The experiments on moths and human skin cells found that ECGC helped to soften the bacteria, making it easier for the antibiotic to penetrate and destroy the pathogens. As a result, it is hoped that the agent could be used more routinely in the treatment of patients with such infections.
Dr Jonathan Betts, the lead researcher on this project, said: “Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a serious threat to global public health.
“Without effective antibiotics, the success of medical treatments will be compromised. We urgently need to develop novel antibiotics in the fight against AMR.
“Natural products such as EGCG, used in combination with currently licenced antibiotics, may be a way of improving their effectiveness and clinically useful lifespan.”
It is estimated that roughly 5,000 avoidable deaths in the UK are a result of antimicrobial resistance, which occurs when bacteria takes on DNA from each other, or when it mutates.