Maybe the scientists and alchemists of the “Medieval Period” knew what they were doing.
In a collaborative effort at the University of Nottingham, a researcher in Medieval English translated a cure for eye infections written in medieval English from Bald’s Leechbook, a famed ninth century text, and a lab scientist recreated the concoction as closely as possible. Â Then, in a controlled environment, using a heavily resistant colony of MRSA, the superbug plaguing hospitals everywhere, the lab scientists applied the “eye salve” and the next day, the superbug had all but gone POOF!
Microbiologist Freya Harrison, who led the work in the lab at the School of Life Sciences, said, â€œWhat we found was very interesting â€” we found that Baldâ€™s eyesalve is incredibly potent as an anti-Staphylococcal antibiotic in this context. Â We were going from a mature, established population of a few billion cells, all stuck together in this highly protected biofilm coat, to really just a few thousand cells left alive. This is a massive, massive killing ability.â€
So what was in this magic elixir from the Dark Ages that annihilates modern superbugs?
Christina Lee, an expert on Anglo-Saxon society from the School of English at the University of Nottingham, translated the ancient manuscript despite some ambiguities in the text.
â€œWe chose this recipe in Baldâ€™s Leechbook because it contains ingredients such as garlic that are currently investigated by other researchers on their potential antibiotic effectiveness,â€ Lee said in a video posted on the universityâ€™s website.
â€œAnd so we looked at a recipe that is fairly straightforward. Itâ€™s also a recipe where we are told itâ€™s the â€˜best of leechdomsâ€™ â€” how could you not test that? So we were curious.â€
In addition to onions and garlic, the recipe calls for wine, bile from a cow’s stomach and a few other things to be brewed in a brass vessel and stored for nine days before being put through a cloth. Â The substance is applied topically, and according to Harrison has a decent shelf life in the refrigerator.
In addition to the lab results in Nottingham, researchers at Texas Tech University were able to get the eye salve to kill MRSA in actual tissue, not just in an artificial environment. Â In short, the eye salve is more effective than modern anti-biotics. Â (Sounds like a lot more experimentation is in order.)
Could it possibly be that locked in the manuscripts of the age of alchemy are the answers to modern medicine’s greatest scourges? Â To the ladies of Nottingham, please, try some more of those recipes.
For the full fascinating story from the University of Nottingham: