Honey from Portobello bees may be used in treatment of MRSA superbug

Beekeeper Diana Cairns with one of the jars of honey. Picture: Cate Gillon
Beekeeper Diana Cairns with one of the jars of honey. Picture: Cate Gillon
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HONEY produced by thousands of Portobello bees may be used in the fight against killer superbugs like MRSA.

Research from Queen Margaret University has shown that honey from the seaside is effective at killing common strains of bacteria which cause wound infections.

The pilot research study – which got under way at the end of last year – found the locally produced honey was as effective at combating bugs as manuka honey from New Zealand.

Funding is now being sought by the university to establish if it can fight antibiotic resistant bugs like MRSA.

Dr Fiona Coutts, dean of health sciences at Queen Margaret University, said the exciting research work could open “an area of untapped potential for Scotland”.

She said: “If Portobello honey continues to show positive results it could offer an excellent economic alternative to importing expensive honey from the other side of the world.

“By harnessing the potential of a product that would be produced locally, it could have a positive outcome for the development of a new local supply chain.

“More importantly, it can destroy specific bacteria associated with wound infections. and therefore has the capacity to improve patient recovery and impact on health service spending on wound infection control.”

The scientists’ research investigated the effects of both honeys on Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and E.coli, all of which are known to infect wounds. The locally produced sticky stuff was effective against all three.

The next step of the research, which will start early next year, will involve investigating whether Portobello honey has the ability to inhibit bacteria which are resistant to antibiotics, such as MRSA.

Honey used in the study came from beehives at Portobello Community Orchard, which is maintained by Pedal – a small Portobello-based community organisation.

There are about 50,000 bees across the two hives at the orchard, with around 20 jars of honey produced from this year’s harvest – one of which is being used for the research involving MRSA.

Barbara Middleton and Diana Cairns are two of the six beekeepers at the orchard. Ms Middleton, who lives in Portobello, suggested that the bee’s happiness may be partly behind the secret of the honey’s qualities. She said: “I don’t know if it’s a combination of plant pollens, the moisture they breathe in or the water nearby. There’s probably quite a few factors involved. They’re quite happy bees , they have got quite a nice life where they are.”

The study showed that the Portobello honey was acidic, contained hydrogen peroxide and plant polyphenols, and showed antioxidant activity – all of which are important in the killing of bacteria.