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This Common Weed Is the Latest Superbug Enemy

Feb 16, 2017 10:04 AM EST
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A weed commonly found in Florida could stop the deadly superbug on its track.
(Photo : Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

A weed commonly found in Florida could stop the deadly superbug on its track.

According to a research conducted by the scientists at Emory University, the compound found in the red berries of the Brazilian pepper tree disarms the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria, preventing it from causing further damage.

USDA's National Invasive Information Center cites that the Brazilian pepper tree or Schinus terebinthifolius is native to South America, but is also found in some parts of the U.S. It is considered invasive because it could produce chemicals that inhibit the growth of native species. However, in early times, traditional healers in the Amazon have used it to treat infections of the skin and soft tissues.

Knowing this, the researchers tested if it can prevent MRSA in mice. MRSA is a perilous bacterium that has developed resistance to many of the commonly used antibiotics. It usually causes lesions in the skin, but in worst cases, can lead to an infection that shuts down the immune system.

"We pulled apart the chemical ingredients of the berries and systematically tested them against disease-causing bacteria to uncover a medicinal mechanism of this plant," Cassandra Quave, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

When the extract was given to mice infected with MSRA, they did not develop skin lesions. Those which were not administered the extract experienced the opposite.

The extract is a mixture of 27 chemicals and is rich in flavonoid. It did not totally kill the bacteria but prevented the mice from developing sores by silencing the bacteria signaling system that facilitates its development.

Science Alert noted that the researchers were also the ones who discovered that leaf extracts from the European chestnut tree could also have the potential to disarm MRSA bacteria. The researchers are yet to do pre-clinical trials to be able to pursue clinical trials under the FDA.

The research is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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