Researchers at Washington State University found that a compound in garlic is 100 times more effective than two popular antibiotics for fighting the Campylobacter bacterium, one of the most common causes of intestinal illness.
The discovery opens the door to new treatments for raw and processed meats and food preparation surfaces. Michael Konkel, a co-author who has been researching Campylobacter jejuni for 25 years, stated that this is the first step in developing or thinking about new intervention strategies. Campylobacter is simply the most common bacterial cause of food-borne illness in the United States and probably the world.
About 2.4 million Americans are affected every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with symptoms including diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain and fever. The bacteria are also responsible for triggering nearly one-third of the cases of a rare paralyzing disorder known as Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Lu and his colleagues looked at the ability of the garlic-derived compound, diallyl sulfide, to kill the bacterium when it is protected by a slimy biofilm that makes it 1,000 times more resistant to antibiotics than the free floating bacterial cell. They found that the compound could easily penetrate the protective biofilm and kill bacterial cells by combining with a sulfur-containing enzyme, subsequently changing the enzyme’s function and effectively shutting down cell metabolism.
The researchers found the diallyl sulfide was as effective as 100 times as much of the antibiotics erythromycin and ciprofloxacin and would often work in a fraction of the time.
Two previous works published last year by Lu and WSU colleagues in Applied and Environmental Microbiology and Analytical Chemistry found diallyl sulfide and other organosulfur compounds effectively kill important foodborne pathogens, such as Listeria monocytogenes and Escherichia coli O157:H7.
However, the authors caution that the recent work is still at the basic stage, well removed from an actual application. While eating garlic is a generally healthy practice, it is unlikely to prevent Campylobacter-related food poisoning. Diallyl sulfide may be useful in reducing the levels of the Campylobacter in the environment and to clean industrial food processing equipment, as the bacterium is found in a biofilm in both settings.
Their finding was recently published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.