4 A lesson from history
Before antibiotics were discovered, people developed their own approaches to treating infections. These traditional remedies were often developed through trial and error and were passed on by word of mouth. Their effectiveness was very unlikely to have been rigorously tested by a clinical trial.
In the light of the antibiotic era, old remedies can seem bizarre. However, some of them were effective at treating infections and scientists have uncovered some interesting potential antibiotic alternatives among them. You can read about one historical example in the next activity.
Activity 6 An Anglo-Saxon remedy for MRSA
Eat leeks in March and wild garlic in May, and all the year after the physicians may play.
Is there any truth in this rhyme? Read the following short article from New Scientist magazine to help you decide!
As the article in Activity 6 mentions, the challenge in developing traditional remedies as antibiotic alternatives is to understand how they work. In the following sections, you will look at the scientific mechanisms underlying the antibacterial activity of two traditional remedies that have attracted interest as antibiotic alternatives – natural honey and metals.