1,000-Year-Old Eye Salve Works Better Than Modern Antibiotics

You know what works better – much better – than modern antibiotics? “Medicine” for the eye made from onion, garlic, wine and cow’s stomach parts, the recipe of which dates back a thousand years ago. This Anglo-Saxon eye ointment has been shown to destroy 90 % of a strain of bacteria known as Staphylococcus aureus (commonly called MRSA) that is otherwise resistant to antibiotics. The recipe of the “eye salve” was originally found in an old English manuscript known as Bald’s Leechbook. The old English medical book was kept in the British Library.

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The recipe of the potion in the 1,000-year-old Anglo Saxon manuscript. Photo credits: PA Wire.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham translated the recipe from ancient Anglo-Saxon with the aim of finding solutions to antibiotic resistance. They have been surprised, though, to witness the potent nature of the “ointment”, after they concocted it.

“We did not see this coming at all,” said the lead researcher, microbiologist Freya Harrison. “We thought that Bald’s eye salve might show a small amount of antibiotic activity. … But we were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was.”

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Microbiologist Dr Freya Harrison and Dr Steve Diggle with the eye salve. Photo credits: PA Wire.

The researchers made sure to stick to the recipe as much as was possible. For instance, they even obtained wine from a vineyard that existed in the 9th century. They tested the final preparation on MRSA cultures. Furthermore, they tested every individual ingredient on its own against the bacteria.

To their bewilderment, they observed that the eye salve killed 90 % of the MRSA bacteria – this only happened when the ingredients were combined into the potent concoction.

The researchers went a step further and tested the salve on biofilms of MRSA; the latter are known to be extremely resistant to the action of antibiotics. Again, the eye salve exceeded all expectations.

The eye salve has also been tested on in vivo mouse wounds. It was applied as a topical treatment. Needless to say, it successfully deleted most of the MRSA cells.

“I still can’t quite believe how well this 1,000-year-old antibiotic actually seems to be working,” said Harrison. “We tested it in difficult conditions too.”

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