A one-thousand-year-old Anglo-Saxon remedy for eye infections which originates from a manuscript in the British Library has been found to kill the modern-day superbug MRSA in an unusual research collaboration at The University of Nottingham. Dr. Christina Lee, an Anglo-Saxon expert from the School of English at Nottingham has enlisted the help of microbiologists from the University’s Centre for Biomolecular Sciences to recreate a 10th-century potion for eye infections from Bald’s Leechbook (image), an Old English leather-bound volume in the British Library, to see if it really works as an antibacterial remedy. The Leechbook is widely thought of as one of the earliest known medical textbooks and contains Anglo-Saxon medical advice and recipes for medicines, salves, and treatments. Early results on the “potion,” tested in vitro at Nottingham and backed up by mouse model tests at a university in the United States, are, in the words of the U.S, collaborator, “astonishing.” The solution has had remarkable effects on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) which is one of the most antibiotic-resistant microbes costing modern health services billions. The team now has good, replicated data showing that Bald’s eye salve kills up to 90% of MRSA bacteria in “in vivo” wound biopsies from mouse models. They believe the bactericidal effect of the recipe is not due to a single ingredient but the combination used and brewing methods/container material used. Further research is planned to investigate how and why this works. The testing of the ancient remedy was the idea of Dr. Christina Lee, Associate Professor in Viking Studies and member of the University’s Institute for Medieval Research. Dr Lee translated the recipe from a transcript of the original Old English manuscript in the British Library.
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