A Chilean avocado plant may battle infections

Hospitals across the world battle infections caused by bacteria. A common strain of bacteria in hospitals is yellow staphylococcus, which can infect wounds after operations and can cause many diseases.

Hand washing and antibacterial soaps aren’t enough to keep the bacteria at bay. Drug developers are constantly creating new antibiotics to fight bacteria, but it becomes resistant to medications quickly.

Recently, a scientist from the University of Copenhagen, Jes Gitz Holler, found a natural compound in an avocado plant in Chile that may offer a new way to fight bacteria.

The secret power of the avocado

Chileans often use the avacdo plant to heal wounds and in other forms of natural medicine. Jes Gitz Holler was allowed to collect samples from the backyard of a Chilean family and plans to take his samples back to the lab to recreate the substance.

“The natural compound has great potential and perhaps in the longer term can be developed into an effective drug to combat resistant staphylococci,” he said.

“We want to improve the active substance using synthetic chemistry in the laboratory. That will also ensure sustainable production of a potential drug while protecting rainforest plants.”

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It’s not the first time natural ingredients could lead to advancement in the medical world, for example, green tea extracts have been proven to help people lose weight.

A change in the drug industry

At present, Holler believes drug companies aren’t aggressively seeking new alternatives to battle bacteria.

“For all intents and purposes, the drug industry is not pursuing research into new antibiotics. It is simply too expensive relative to possible earnings, and there is more money in drugs to treat chronic diseases such as diabetes,” he said.

“Therefore, the bacteria are winning the race – resistance increases and treatment options are scarce. Research will have to find new paths and natural substances are one of them,” emphasizes Jes Gitz Holler.

Should the avocado plant turn out to be a success, there is a contract with the Chilean people who helped Holler gain access to the plant.

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