Understanding antibiotic resistance
Understanding antibiotic resistance

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Understanding antibiotic resistance

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

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Eat leeks in March and wild garlic in May, and all the year after the physicians may play.

(Traditional Welsh rhyme)

Is there any truth in this rhyme? Read the following short article from New Scientist magazine to help you decide!

Article 1: ‘Anglo-Saxon remedy kills hospital superbug MRSA’ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

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.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371