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Ancient medicine to treat infected foot ulcers

Project summary

Assessing the potential of a medieval antibiotic to treat infected diabetic ulcers

Infections in foot ulcers can be hard to treat and don’t always respond to antibiotics. If this happens, they can result in amputations or sepsis. Dr Freya Harrison wants to find new types of antibiotics that could be used to effectively treat infections in foot ulcers. In the future, this could improve the quality of people with diabetes’ lives and reduce the number of amputations.

Background to research

Antibiotic-resistant infections are an increasing problem around the world. People with diabetes may be more vulnerable, as they can develop hard to heal foot ulcers, which may become infected. Foot ulcers don’t always respond well to currently available antibiotics, so there’s a real need to find new ones.

Most antibiotics come from natural sources and researching traditional remedies has been successful in the past. Dr Harrison and her team have been studying historical manuscripts to uncover new sources of antibiotics. They have discovered a remedy used in medieval England made from garlic, onion, bile salts, and wine. They’ve found that this cocktail can kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the lab.

Research aims

Dr Harrison and her team want to study this remedy further, to see if it could be used to treat foot ulcers in the future. They want to find out why it works, when the individual components don’t have the same effect, and identify the specific molecules responsible for killing bacteria.

The researchers will use bacteria from diabetic foot ulcers and grow them in artificial ulcers in the lab. They’ll then test the remedy against single and mixed species of bacteria. They’ll also compare the effectiveness of this remedy to other currently available antibiotics, and test it in mice to see if it has the same effect in a living organism.

Finally, they want to know if the remedy or its active molecules have any side effects on the skin. If initial lab tests suggest not, they plan to recruit healthy volunteers to test a plaster containing the remedy.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

Successfully treating infected foot ulcers can help to avoid sepsis and amputations in people with diabetes. This project could help to find new treatments that can be used to treat persistent foot ulcer infections.

If successful, the findings could lead to a clinical trial.
 

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