Antibiotics save lives every day, but there is a downside to their ubiquity. High doses can kill healthy cells along with infection-causing bacteria, while also spurring the creation of "superbugs" that no longer respond to known antibiotics. Now, researchers may have found a natural way to cut down on antibiotic use without sacrificing health: a maple syrup extract that dramatically increases the potency of these medicines. The researchers presented their work on April 2 at the 253rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS, the world's largest scientific society, is holding its annual meeting in San Francisco April 2-6. The meeting will feature more than 14,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics. "Native populations in Canada have long used maple syrup to fight infections," says Nathalie Tufenkji, Ph.D., of Canada’s McGill University. "I've always been interested in the science behind these folk medicines." The idea for the project really gelled when Dr. Tufenkji, who had been studying the antimicrobial effects of cranberry extracts, learned of the anti-cancer properties of a phenolic maple syrup extract. "That gave me the idea to check its antimicrobial activity," Dr. Tufenkji says. "So, I sent my postdoc to the store to buy some syrup." Using the same extraction approach as other researchers have in the past, Dr. Tufenkji's team at McGill University separated the sugar and water from the syrup's phenolic compounds, which contribute to maple syrup's signature golden hue. In an initial test, the team exposed several disease-causing bacterial strains to the extract, but they didn't see much of an effect. Rather than give up on maple syrup altogether, Dr.
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