[ExI] healing clays hold promise against infection and disease
possiblepaths2050 at gmail.com
Thu Apr 10 14:40:53 UTC 2008
"Healing clays" hold promise in fight against MRSA superbug infections and
NEW ORLEANS — Mud may be coming to a medicine cabinet or pharmacy near you.
Scientists from Arizona State University report that minerals from clay
promise could provide inexpensive, highly-effective antimicrobials to fight
methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections that are
moving out of health care settings and into the community. These "superbugs"
are increasingly resistant to multiple antibiotics and cause thousands of
deaths each year.
Unlike conventional antibiotics routinely administered by injection or
pills, the so-called "healing clays" could be applied as rub-on creams or
ointments to keep MRSA infections from spreading, according to a research
duo from ASU's Biodesign Institute and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
The clays also show promise against a wide range of other harmful bacteria,
including those that cause skin infections and food poisoning, they add.
Their study, one of the first to explore the antimicrobial activity of
natural clays in detail, was presented at the 235th national meeting of the
American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
Clays have been used for thousands of years as a remedy for infected wounds,
indigestion, and other health problems, either by applying clay to the skin
or eating it. Cleopatra's famed beauty has been credited to her use of clay
facials. Today, clays are still commonly used at health spas in the form of
facials and mud baths. However, armed with new investigative tools,
researchers Shelley Haydel and Lynda Williams are putting the clays to the
"Clays are little chemical drug-stores in a packet," says study co-leader
Williams, a geochemist in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. "They
contain literally hundreds of
In their latest study, funded by the National Institutes of Health,
Williams, Haydel and their colleagues collected more than 20 different clay
samples from around the world to investigate their antibacterial activities.
Study co-leader Haydel, a microbiologist in ASU's School of Life Sciences
and a researcher in ASU's Biodesign Institute, tested each of the clays
against bacteria known to cause human diseases. These bacteria include MRSA,
*Mycobacterium ulcerans* (a microbe related to the tuberculosis bacterium
that causes a flesh-eating disease known as Buruli ulcer), as well as *E.
coli* and *Salmonella* (which cause food poisoning).
The researchers identified at least two clays from the United States that
kill or significantly reduce the growth of these bacteria, in addition to
the one French green clay that launched their research in 2005. The
antibacterial effect of the French clay was documented this year in
of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy*, with co-author Christine Remenih.
Identifying what specific compounds make these clays effective antibacterial
agents presents a challenge, researchers say, but they credit their combined
perspectives, coming as they do from two very different scientific
disciplines, for their successes. Haydel and Williams note too that tools
like electron and ion microscopy might also reveal how these antibacterial
clays may interact with the cell membranes or cellular physiology of the
bacteria to kill.
Williams and Haydel continue to test new clay samples from around the world
to determine their germ-fighting potential. They hope that the more
promising clays will be developed into a skin ointment or pill to fight a
variety of bacterial infections or possibly as an agricultural wash to
prevent food poisoning. Several companies have expressed interest in forming
partnerships to develop the clays as antimicrobial agents, the scientists
But ordinary mud can contain dangerous bacteria as well as toxic minerals
like arsenic and mercury, the researchers point out. Until healing clays are
developed that are scientifically proven, which could take several years,
they say that hand washing and other proper hygiene techniques may be the
best bet for keeping MRSA and other harmful bacteria at bay.
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