Traditional remedies such as tea and honey can be deployed to fight against superbugs as scientists have warned that bacteria are becoming increasingly resistance to antibiotics.

Scientists say the antibiotics are becoming redundant and the more the drugs that are used, the more likely it is that any bacteria will build up a resistance to them.

One expert said this could lead to an “arms race” that he feared was being lost. It raises the spectre of a return to the time before antibiotics revolutionised medicine when they arrived in the 1940s, ‘The Telegraph’ reported.

“I hate to say we’re heading back towards the pre-antibiotics days when treating serious diseases was extremely problematic,” the paper quoted professor Les Baillie, of Cardiff University, as telling the BBC.

He said that in the UK strategies were being used to slow the problem down by controlling the antibiotics use, so there was always “something in reserve”.

“It would be horrendous if we ever came to a situation where there was nothing left in the cupboard,” said Baillie.

Baillie is leading a team that is looking into whether old-fashioned cures such as tea and honey, could be the next way to take on superbugs.

Tea contains compounds called polyphenols that have health benefits including their ability to kill micro-organisms.

Scientists from Baillie’s team have been looking at tea as a source of drugs to treat clostridium difficile — a bacterium that was responsible for at least 2,000 deaths and more than 24,000 infections last year, the report said.

Rhidian Morgan-Jones, a Cardiff-based surgeon, said that there were real concerns about the future of medicine on a post-antibiotic age.

“You’re going back to the last century where before antibiotics all you had to do was lance boils, drain the puss and put people in bed and rest them. Some you cured and some you didn’t,” he said.

Professor David Livermore, of the Health Protection Agency, warned that major operations and cancer treatment could become “more dangerous” as the rise of superbugs meant powerful antibiotics would work for only another ten years.

A “whole swathe” of modern medicine including intensive care and organ transplants was under threat, he said.

(This article was published on December 10, 2012)
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