Latest research suggests that concentrated polyphenolic extracts of a maple syrup could make the infection-causing bacteria vulnerable to common antibiotics, based on clinical trials by scientists at the McGill University.

These results, soon to be distributed and available online in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, recommend that the combination of antibiotics with maple syrup extracts could boost the bacteria's susceptibility, thus lowering the antibiotic treatment. Overuse of antibiotic medicines has produced drug-resistant bacteria, becoming one of the main public health concerns worldwide.

The research team from the Department of Chemical Engineering headed by Prof. Nathalie Tufenkji, extracted polyphenolic compounds from maple syrup, all of which were purchased at local markets in Montreal. Maple syrup, processed by collecting and heating the exuded sap from the North American maple trees, has been known to be a rich supply of process-derived and natural phenolic compounds.

Scientists experimented on the extract's effect on disease-causing strains for the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria, Escherichia coli bacteria and the Proteus mirabilis, the bacterium frequently implicated in complicated UTIs. On its own, the extract has been mildly efficient in fighting bacterial growth. However, the concentrated syrup extract became more effective when combined with antibiotics. It exhibited strong synergy with common antibiotics in wiping out resistant population of pathogenic bacteria collectively known as biofilm formation. A biofilm is any group of microorganisms in which cells stick to each other on a surface. These formations are very common in complex sickness, for instance catheter-connected UTIs.

"We would have to do in vivo tests, and eventually clinical trials, before we can say what the effect would be in humans," Tufenkji said. She noted that the findings present a very simple and direct approach for the reduction of antibiotic usage. She added also that it is very possible in the near future that the maple syrup extract will be incorporated into antibiotics capsules.

Tufenkji, presently assigned as the Canada Research Chair in Biocolloids and Surfaces, was also previously involved on the research regarding the potential role of cranberry derivatives in preventing bacterial colonization in medical devices such as catheters.

This paper "Polyphenolic Extract from Maple Syrup Potentiates Antibiotic Susceptibility and Reduces Biofilm Formation of Pathogenic Bacteria" has been written with her postdoctoral fellows Zeinab Hosseinidoust and Vimal B. Maisuria.

The recent study was funded by the Canada Research Chairs program and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

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