Skip to main content
Carrington College Blog

Centuries-Old Potion May Lead to Cure for MRSA

March 30, 2015

A medieval remedy may lead to a cure for MRSA.A new study by researchers shows there may be a cure in the near future for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, otherwise known as MRSA.

The antibiotic-resistant bacterium is estimated to cost the United States’ healthcare system more than $2.5 billion dollars a year, according to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.1

Dr. Christina Lee thought of the experiment to see if a 10th century potion used to treat eye infections could work as an antibacterial remedy. Lee enlisted the help of researchers from the University of Nottingham’s Centre for Biomolecular Sciences and researchers based in the U.S.

Together, they found that the potion known as Bald’s eyesalve killed up to 90 percent of MRSA bacteria when researchers applied the potion in vitro and to open MRSA wounds on mice.

“We are genuinely astonished at the results of our experiments in the lab,” Lee said in a statement.2

Lee and her colleagues used the Bald’s eyesalve after Lee, who is an Anglo-Saxon expert, translated the recipe from Bald’s Leechbook, an Old English ​book. According to Lee, medieval books often contain remedies used to treat bacterial infections. Lee said it is important to understand just how effective medieval remedies were, as they could lead to better treatments against bacterial infections that cause serious illness, or death.

Results Surpass Expectations

Dr. Kendra Rumbaugh led the testing in the U.S. MRSA-infected wounds are difficult to treat not only in people, but mice as well.

“We have not tested a single antibiotic or experimental therapeutic that is completely effective; however, this ‘ancient remedy’ performed as good if not better than the conventional antibiotics we used,” Rumbaugh said.

Researchers believe the remedy works because of the potion’s ingredients: garlic, onion or leek, wine and oxgall. Dr. Freya Harrison said they expected a “small amount of antibiotic activity” because the ingredients have been known to have an effect on bacteria.

“But we were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was,” Harrison said. She noted how testing conditions were purposely made difficult. For example, Harrison’s team let artificial infections grow into dense biofilms. Because individual cells bunch together to form a sticky coating, antibiotics have difficulty reaching them.

“But unlike many modern antibiotics, Bald’s eyesalve has the power to breach these defenses,” said Harrison

1 ‘Reducing MRSA Infections: Staying One Step Ahead,’

2. Rayner, Emma, University of Nottingham. ‘AncientBiotics – a medieval remedy for modern day superbugs?‘ 3/30/2015,—a-medieval-remedy-for-modern-day-superbugs.aspx