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Herbal remedies offer hope as the new antibiotics

Cancer treatments often have the side effect of impairing the patient's immune system. This can result in life-threatening secondary infections from bacteria and fungi, especially since bacteria, like Staphylococcus aureus, are becoming multi-drug resistant (MRSA). New research published by BioMed Central's open access journal Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials investigates the potency of Indian wild plants against bacterial and fungal infections in the mouths of oral cancer patients.

Researchers from Rohtak, India, tested extracts from several plants used in traditional or folk medicine against microbials found in the mouths of oral cancer patients. Of the 40 patients involved in the study, 35 had compromised immune systems with severely reduced neutrophil counts. Eight of the plants tested were able to significantly affect the growth of organisms collected by oral swab, and pure cultures of bacteria and fungi grown in the lab. This included wild asparagus, desert date, false daisy, curry tree, caster oil plant and fenugreek.

Dr Jaya Parkash Yadav said, "Natural medicines are increasingly important in treating disease and traditional knowledge provides a starting point in the search for plant-based medicines. Importantly we found that the extraction process had a huge effect on both the specificity and efficacy of the plant extracts against microbes. Nevertheless several of the plants tested were broad spectrum antibiotics able to combat bacteria including E. coli, S. aureus and the fungi Candida and Aspergillus. Both desert date and caster oil plant were especially able to target bacteria, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which are known to be difficult to treat with conventional antibiotics."

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