The antibiotic era has been one of the greatest eras in human history. No longer did people have to worry about dying from simple infections of scratches, gouges, and other wounds. Common antibiotics have saved millions of lives and have improved the well-being of the human race. But improper use of antibiotics and overuse have helped many bacteria become resistant to common antibiotics, and an increasing number of virulent bacteria are becoming resistant even to the most powerful antibiotics. There’s a real threat that we may soon be entering the post-antibiotic era, in which even a small scratch is enough to lead to fatalities through infection.
Researchers are doing everything they can to develop new ways to fight dangerous bacteria, including development of new antibiotics, developing new treatments to fight resistant bacteria, and researching ways to make existing antibiotics much more effective. Some recent research has started to look at cranberries to see if they can help fight antibiotic resistance.
Cranberry juice has long been touted as a folk remedy for urinary tract infections (UTIs), a common bacterial infection most often suffered by women. Researchers in Canada began to study cranberries and discovered that a cranberry extract enhanced the effectiveness of antibiotics in treating bacteria that caused UTIs, pneumonia, and gastrointestinal illness.
The effect of cranberry extract was twofold. First, the cranberry extract made the cell membranes of bacteria more permeable, allowing the antibiotics to penetrate the bacteria better. Secondly, the cranberry extract disrupted the mechanism by which the bacteria normally attempted to expel the antibiotic, meaning that the bacteria weren’t able to resist the antibiotic as they otherwise might be able to do.
That’s a very promising sign, and it obviously warrants further study. There’s no telling whether consumption of cranberry juice has the same effects, although its continued use to treat UTIs certainly doesn’t seem to be doing any harm. But with further research perhaps the post-antibiotic era can be put off for a while, or hopefully forever.