A rare clay used by indigenous people over centuries for its healing properties may provide another weapon in the arsenal against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a new study has found.
The clay from Kisameet Bay, in British Columbia, killed 16 strains of so-called ESKAPE bacteria samples from the hospitals and waste treatment facilities in a study published in the American Society for Microbiology’s mBio journal.
(ESKAPE bacteria pathogens are the bugs that cause the majority of hospital infections. They take their name from an acronym of the scientific names of the bacteria themselves: Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus also known as as the methacillin-resistant superbug MRSA, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and the Enterobacter species.)
“Infections caused by ESKAPE bacteria are essentially untreatable and contribute to increasing mortality in hospitals,” wrote co-author Julian Davies.
“After 50 years of overusing and misusing antibiotics, ancient medicinals and other natural mineral-based agents may provide new weapons in the battle against multi drug-resistant pathogens.”
The 400 million kilogram clay deposit is on Heiltsuk First Nation traditional territory near Bella Bella on British Columbia’s central coast, 400 kilometres north of Vancouver.
The University of British Columbia (UBC) says the clay has been used by the Heiltsuk people to treat conditions like ulcerative colitis, duodenal ulcer, arthritis, neuritis, phlebitis, skin irritation and burns.
The next stage in clinical evaluation involves detailed clinical studies and toxicity testing.
“We’re fortunate to be able to partner with UBC on this significant research program,” said Lawrence Lund, president of Kisameet Glacial Clay, a business formed to market cosmetic and medicinal products derived from the clay.
“We hope it will lead to the development of a novel and safe antimicrobial that can be added to the diminished arsenal for the fight against the ESKAPE pathogens and other infection-related health issues plaguing the planet.”
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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