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Rhododendrons contain active ingredients for natural antibiotics

Rhododendrons contain active ingredients for natural antibiotics


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Rhododendron as a possible source of new antibiotics

Rhododendrons are among the most popular ornamental plants in native gardens. In other countries, their flowers and leaves have been used in traditional medicine for centuries. German researchers are convinced that the plants also contain active ingredients for a new antibiotic.

Dangerous antibiotic resistance

The rise in antibiotic resistance poses an increasing threat to humanity. If the problem is not brought under control soon, researchers are at risk of a horrific scenario. According to an older study by the Berlin Charité, there could be around ten million deaths from multi-resistant germs by 2050. In recent years, more and more governments and experts have announced that they want to step up the fight against antibiotic resistance. A plant that also grows in the garden for many Germans could possibly help.

Rhododendrons have long been used as a remedy

Rhododendrons are more commonly known as ornamental plants in German gardens. In other countries, the plants have been used as medicines for centuries.

Roman sources already report the intoxicating effect of honey from the plant, which originally comes from the Himalayas, the Jacobs University Bremen explained in an older message.

Extracts from their leaves and roots have been used in traditional medicine in India, Turkey or Indonesia to treat infections, reduce fever or relieve malaise.

For a long time, there was no intensive, scientific analysis of their ingredients and their effects.

Active substances for new drugs

But for a few years now, scientists led by Matthias Ullrich, professor of microbiology at Jacobs University Bremen, have been researching whether the plants contain active substances for new drugs, such as antibiotics or cancer treatment.

As early as 2014, the microbiologist stated in the communication published by the Science Information Service (idw): "We are on the trail of at least one novel substance that could one day be used as an antibiotic."

At the time, the researchers reported that they extracted around 600 different substances, of which 120 were analyzed in more detail.

"Several have a clear antibacterial effect," says Ullrich. “We know what the new substances can do. But we still don't understand how it works. ”But the research team has since been able to gain new insights.

High antibacterial activity

As the Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) reports on its website, the Bremen researchers have so far found around 40 substances with high antibacterial activity.

These have now been tested on living human skin and intestinal cells for dangerous side effects. According to the information, four of the new substances have so far proven to be completely harmless to human cells.

The scientists also found that some substances from the rhododendron also attack cancer cells and inhibit their multiplication.

The researchers are now trying to recreate three substances from the rhododendron that are particularly effective against bacteria in the laboratory - as the basis for the development of new drugs.

Low yield

According to the NDR, the scientists found that every single species of rhododendron produces its own antibiotic. Rhododendron collettianum in particular was highlighted.

From two kilograms of this plant, 20 milligrams of antibiotic could be isolated, which corresponds to the weekly dose for a patient. Due to the low yield, the substance might have to be manufactured artificially.

But there is no money for that. The pharmaceutical industry showed no interest due to the small profit margin to be expected from an antibiotic. (ad)

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