Sweet relief for cystic fibrosis sufferers

Kerrin Harrison

Honey made from the nectar of a certain kind of tree that grows only in New Zealand may offer new hope to people living with cystic fibrosis. New Zealand is the only place on Earth where wild honeybees can create monofloral honey from the beautiful blossoms of the native Mānuka trees. A study at Swansea University in the UK has found that Mānuka honey is more powerful than antibiotics in treating chronic infections associated with the life-threatening genetic disease cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis affects more than 70,000 people around the world, causing persistent lung infections that get progressively worse and over time limit the ability to breathe.
Although there has been significant progress in treatments in recent years, there remains no cure. The long-lasting respiratory infections suffered by cystic fibrosis patients often prove fatal due to the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The authors of the Swansea University study, which was published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, noted that the natural antimicrobial properties of Mānuka honey have been used successfully for decades to treat chronic surface wounds infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa. So, they set out to discover whether Mānuka honey might also be successful in treating Pseudomonas aeruginosa related to cystic fibrosis. The results of their preliminary trials showed that Mānuka honey was more effective than pharmaceutical antibiotics, killing 39 percent of the bacteria as opposed to 29 percent, and when both treatments were used in combination, they killed 90 percent of the bacteria.
Study lead Dr Rowena Jenkins says the preliminary results are very promising, and if replicated in future clinical trials they could open up additional treatment options for cystic fibrosis sufferers. “The synergy with antibiotics and absence of resistance seen in the laboratory has allowed us to move into the current clinical trial, investigating the potential for Mānuka honey as part of a sinus rinse for alleviating infection in the upper airway.” This research is just the latest in a number of studies that provide scientific evidence supporting the therapeutic benefits of Mānuka honey.
Sources: Frontiers in Microbiology, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Swansea University
Disclaimer: This article is designed to inform and not to provide a direction on medication. The research outlined is in its infancy and there remains a lot of scientific work to be done before it reaches widespread use. Bee products can cause a variety of reactions so please consult your doctor before using any bee or honey products.