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Fighting MRSA with Christmas trees

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Round about now, somewhere near Oslo, a tall Norway spruce (Picea abies) is (Callie Jones)being cut down for shipping to London, where it will stand proudly in Trafalgar Square over the Christmas period, adorned with 500 white lights.

Each year since 1947 the city of Oslo has presented a tree as a token of gratitude to Londoners for their help in the 1939–45 war.  

But the Norway spruce is not just for Christmas. It has other uses, particularly as timber and as pulpwood for paper-making.

In addition, its roots, needles, bark and resin have all been used in traditional medicine. Juice from the roots has been used for eye problems. A tea made from the needles has been employed as an emetic and expectorant. The bark has found a use in a variety of inflammatory conditions. The resin has been used for centuries to treat skin diseases and, in some cultures, has also been taken internally for cold and sore throats and even for tuberculosis.

In recent years interest has arisen in the possible use of spruce resin in combating antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. In laboratory studies in Finland a homemade resin salve showed a bacteriostatic effect against all tested Gram-positive bacteria important in human medicine, including both meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE). It was also effective against Proteus vulgaris, but not against other tested Gram-negative bacteria.

Another Finnish research project has shown that exposure to spruce resin produces changes in the cell walls and cell membranes of S aureus, resulting in cell wall thickening, cell aggregation, changed branching of fatty acids and dissipation of membrane potential of the bacterial cells — changes that impair the synthesis of energy in the bacterium.

Much more research is still needed, of course, but the Christmas tree could become an important weapon in the fight against bacterial infection.

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From: Beyond pharmacy blog

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