Essential oils could kill the deadly MRSA hospital ‘superbug’, scientists have claimed.
University of Manchester researchers found three of the oils, usually used in aromatherapy, destroyed MRSA and E.coli bacteria in two minutes.
They suggest the oils could be blended into soaps and shampoos which could be used in hospitals to stop the spread of the superbug. Hospital-acquired infections, such as MRSA, kill an estimated 5,000 a year in the UK.
The Manchester study was triggered when complementary medicine specialists at Christie Cancer Hospital asked university researchers to test essential oils.
Dr Peter Warn, who carried out the research, said: “When I tested the oils in the lab, absolutely nothing grew. Rather than stimulating bacteria and fungi, the oils killed them off.”
The essential oils tested were Patchouli, tea tree, geranium, lavender essential oils and Citricidal trade mark (grapefruit seed extract).
The team tested 40 essential oils against 10 of the most infectious agents found in hospitals, including MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus).
Two of the oils were found to kill MRSA and E.coli almost instantly, while a third was found to act over a longer period of time.
Dr Warn says the essential oils could be used to create much more pleasant inhalation therapies – which he said were likely to have a much higher success rate than the current treatment, which is only effective in around 50% of cases.”
Dr Warn said: “We believe that our discovery could revolutionise the fight to combat MRSA and other superbugs.”
But he said the team now needed around £30,000 in order to continue its research.
Jacqui Stringer, clinical leader of complementary therapies at Christie Hospital in Manchester, instigated the oils research.
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She said: “Our research shows a very practical application which could be of enormous benefit to the NHS and its patients.
“The reason essential oils are so effective is because they are made up of a complex mixture of chemical compounds which the MRSA and other superbug bacteria finds difficult to resist.”
The Department of Health evaluates products which are claimed to prevent or treat HAIs before it permits them to be used across the NHS.