Manuka honey can stop nasty bacteria from growing - study

Manuka honey - good for more than just eating (Getty)
Manuka honey - good for more than just eating (Getty)

Manuka honey - it's pricey, it's tasty and scientists now believe it could save you from a nasty infection.

Applying diluted manuka honey to medical equipment like catheters restricts the growth of bacterial cultures, new research has found.

It works by preventing bacteria from forming a "biofilm" - a thin layer of microbes that can attach itself to virtually any surface, including plastic.

Once this biofilm is established it's difficult to get rid of, and can help other bacteria in the colony become increasingly resistant to antibiotics.

"They have been shown to cause infections and act as environmental reservoirs for pathogens," the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Pathology, says.

Scientists at the University of Southampton in the UK diluted manuka honey with distilled water, testing a number of different strength concoctions.

They found a 1:6 ratio of honey to water gave the best results, reducing the bacterial growth by 46 percent after one day, and "stickiness" by 77 percent after three days.

Even the lowest dilution - 1:30 - was relatively effective at curbing stickiness, but didn't do much to curb the growth of established cultures.

"Our study demonstrates that diluted honey is potentially a useful agent for reducing biofilm formation on indwelling plastic devices such as urinary catheters."

It also has the benefit of not contributing to antibiotic resistance, because of the "inability of bacteria to develop resistance to honey", and has anti-inflammatory properties.

About 100 million catheters are produced every year. Infections are relatively common, particularly in long-term use.

But before manuka honey finds a place in hospitals, the scientists say standards for "medical-grade honey" would need to be established.

It also remains to be seen whether the honey would be so effective in a live situation with flowing urine, so animal testing might also be needed.