by Breanna Draxler
The avocado has long been touted as a super food. Now it may have another health benefit: killing super bacteria.
Yellow staphylococci is the most common bacteria linked to post-operation infections in hospitals. These staph infections can be life-threatening and are becoming more and more resistant to the antibiotics used to treat them.
Jes Gitz Holler, a young Danish scientist, found that the leaves of the Chilean avocado plant can overcome the bacteria’s resistance.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have developed a pump that flushes antibiotics out of the bacterial cells before they can take effect. The avocado leaf breaks down this defense by turning off the pump and allowing the antibiotics to do their job.
In Chile, these leaves are used by the Mapuche people to heal wounds. Holler says he hopes to produce a synthetic version of the plant in order to protect the rainforest resources and improve the chemical’s effectiveness.
The researchers have signed an agreement with a local Chilean representative to ensure that commercialization of the leaf will benefit the Mapuche people.
Holler says this finding is particularly important because the drug industry doesn’t invest in antibiotic research since it is too expensive relative to the potential profit.
The results of the study were published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy in early February.
This story was also featured in Tuesday’s episode of How on Earth on KGNU radio. Find a link to the podcast on the show’s website: HowOnEarthRadio.org.