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Licorice Root: Trip to the Candy Store Might Help Ward Off Rare, but Deadly Infections

As it turns out, children were not the only ones with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads over this past holiday season. In a new research report published in the January 2010 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, a team of scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch and Shriners Hospitals for Children shows how a compound from licorice root (glycyrrhizin from Glycyrrhiza glabra) might be an effective tool in battling life-threatening, antibiotic-resistant infections resulting from severe burns.

Specifically, they found that in burned mice, glycyrrhizin improved the ability of damaged skin to create small proteins that serve as the first line of defense against infection. These proteins, called antimicrobial peptides, work by puncturing the cell membranes of bacteria similar to how pins pop balloons.

"It is our hope that the medicinal uses of glycyrrhizin will lead to lower death rates associated with infection in burn patients," said Fujio Suzuki, Ph.D., one of the researchers involved in the work. Suzuki also said that more research is necessary to determine if this finding would have any implications for people with cystic fibrosis, who can develop Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections in their lungs.
 
 

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