Viking warriors and 7th-century Chinese were unknowingly brewing up the solution to the toughest modern-day infections, if a Swedish researcher's hypothesis is correct. According to Gizmodo, microbiologist Tobias Olofsson of Sweden's Lund University has been studying the ancient honey wine known as mead—mythologized for centuries for its strength-giving properties—to see if it could provide a delicious alternative to fighting difficult bacterial infections.
Olofsson has been brewing his own probiotic mead, and studying the effects on his own blood—in the first known attempt to make mead for medicinal uses. Olofsson is now applying for grants to perform clinical studies to test his idea further. A study he published with his research team back in 2014 in the International Wound Journal describes a lactic acid bacteria (LAB) that they discovered in honey, and Olofsson is currently investigating whether that could help fight antibiotic-resistant pathogens in both humans and animals. Olofsson's team has already shown that a LAB-infused honey compound could fight the drug-resistant and potentially fatal MRSA infection in humans, and help cure difficult-to-treat infected wounds in horses.
"Could honeybees' most valuable contribution to mankind besides pollination services be alternative tools against infections?" Olofsson and his team wrote. "Today, due to the emerging antibiotic-resistant pathogens, we are facing a new era of searching for alternative tools against infections. Natural products such as honey have been applied against...infections for millennia without sufficient scientific evidence."
Ancient honey-gatherers were apparently reaping the medicinal benefits found in certain honeycombs without even realizing it, and getting a tasty wine into the bargain. “To get all of the honey out of the wax combs, honey makers would stick them in water,” Olofsson said in the Gizmodo piece. “After a day or two of standing, you had an alcoholic beverage.”
Food & Wine has dubbed the probiotic-infused honey wine "medical mead," likening it to medical marijuana and setting imaginations aflame—even though it may be a few years before we can try it.
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