by Anniel 8/2/15
After writing recently about biofilms and their place in nature, for both good and ill, new information seems to be appearing every day about how medical researchers and other scientists are beginning to understand the role biofilms play in such things as autoimmune diseases. As with all new medical information, hopes can be raised and then dashed, but it is always good to at least have some hope for the future.
Germs don’t just float around in the blood and tissues as previously thought. They make a film of slime aggregate to surround and protect themselves as they stay within it. Other groups of germs and pathogens form symbiotic colonies within the same slime covering. In effect they become little communities living together. The biofilms can cause chronic infections of all kinds as they hide germs within the host body. Biofilm is absolutely essential to all life, both inside and outside the body. The films are threatening in the body when “bad” germs congregate in colonies to protect themselves. The biofilm colonies are highly resistant to antibiotics once they are established within a host body.
A new study indicates that biofilms collect in the human intestinal tract, the “gut.” If the host has “Leaky Gut Syndrome” and biofilm colonies leak out they can attack the body’s immune defenses. They may be the causes of some autoimmune and neurological disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. This is a promising new area of research.
Then there are the antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” we hear so much about. One of the reasons they are so bad is because they form biofilm colonies that are impervious to being broken down. One of the worst of these is known as MRSA — methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It is a major problem in hospitals, where it can lead to life-threatening pneumonia and bloodstream infections. New research finds that MRSA is taking up residence in American homes. You can get a Clorox cleaning wipe that claims to kill the MRSA biofilms on household surfaces, such as refrigerators, stoves, countertops and sinks. I assume Clorox tells you where it’s safe to use the wipes.
Now comes a big story that is actually a few years old. A woman named Christina Lee is an expert on old Anglo-Saxon languages at the University of Nottingham in the UK. She discovered a copy of a 9th or 10th century apothecary called Bald’s Leechbook and decided to translate the recipes for medicines used in those so-called “Dark Ages.” One such recipe was for an eye salve for wens, or what we call “styes.” It was annotated as “the best of leechdom’s.” Unable to resist that description, Lee took the recipe to the University’s labs and asked their microbiologist team, which included Freya Harrison, if the lab could duplicate it and see if it worked.
Harrison said, “We thought that Bald’s eye salve might show a small amount of antibiotic activity, because each of the ingredients have been shown by other researchers to have some effect on bacteria in the lab. Copper and bile salts can kill bacteria, and the garlic family of plants make chemicals that interfere with the bacteria’s ability to damage infected tissues.”
The recipe calls for two species of Allium (garlic, and onion or leek), wine fermented at a certain area fairly near the college, and bile from a cow’s stomach (called oxgall). The Allium is chopped fine, the other ingredients mixed in, and the mixture is placed into a brass vessel, covered and left to sit for nine days. It is then strained out through a cloth and the salve applied to the wen using the tip of a feather. The lab team duplicated everything as near as possible.
They used fresh ingredients according to the original instructions and when they strained the salve out, they found it was a “lovely” biofilm of its own. The technicians exposed populations of Staphylococcus aureaus, the antibiotic-resistant bacteria MRSA, to the potion both in lab cultures and on infected wounds in mice. The salve obliterated MRSA and its biofilm, killing 999 out of 1,000 bacterial cells. After the researchers performed their tests, they “were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was,” says Harrison.
Christina Lee added, “We were genuinely astonished at the results of our experiments in the lab. We believe modern research into disease can benefit from past responses and knowledge, which is largely contained in non-scientific writings,” adding that remedies like this one “were developed well before the modern understanding of germ theory.” The lab has duplicated its results at least four times and has now shared the information and recipe with Harvard Medical School, where it has been found to be very effective and is being extensively studied. Maybe it would even work on other drug-resistant antibiotics.
The English researchers working on the Bald’s eye salve hate to hear the term “Dark Ages.” Christina Lee and Freya Harrison, two excited ladies who speak such lovely lilting English, are proud of the knowledge of their ancestors who, in their wisdom, created something that might help save people in our day. The Anglo-Saxons were real and intelligent people with hopes and dreams, very much like you and me.
I discussed this matter with a friend who has worked in the medical field. After reading the articles she called to inform me that she’s sure we’ve got a gold mine here. She has the brass pot and the wine, I get to buy and chop up the Alliums, which means Bear gets to obtain the oxgall. He wants to know where we can find a suitable animal in cow-poor Alaska and which of the cow’s stomachs the gall comes from.
You see a cow has four different sections to its stomach and undergoes a special digestive process to break down the tough and coarse food it eats. When the cow first eats, it chews the food just enough to swallow it. The unchewed food travels to the first two stomach sections, the rumen and the reticulum, where it is stored until later. When the cow is full from this eating process, she rests. Later, the cow coughs up bits of the unchewed food, called cud, and chews it completely this time before swallowing it again. The chewed cud then goes to the third and fourth stomach sections, the omasum and abomasum (!), where it is fully digested. Some of this digested food enters the bloodstream, nourishes the cow and then travels to the udder, where it is used in making milk. At what point does one harvest the gall, and if it is known as “oxgall” does it have to be from a male or female cow? Now Bear has questioned if it even comes from the stomach and suggests it might come from the gallbladder. Almost all ungulates have gall bladders, except those who don’t (horses and deer, for instance, do not).
With all these questions we fear Bear may just have the gall to be stalling in his work assignment. Well, one thing that speaks in his favor is that men and women do work on different timing schedules. The males think things through first and then talk about doing things “tomorrow.” Women, of course, want everything done “yesterday.”
Next we wondered if moose gall would work. We could just ask a hunter to maybe save the stomach contents of a moose for us, or it’s gallbladder. Then the next day five yaks escaped from their barn in Eagle River and had to be rounded up. Would yak gall work? There are also pet llamas around. We’re not at all certain where to go with this.
As we were researching moose anatomy, I remembered that some people drink moose milk and it has a curative effect on certain digestive disorders. Looking it up we found that a farmer in Sweden is making the most expensive cheese in the world out of – you guessed it – rich, creamy, moose milk. The cheese sells for just under $500.00 a pound. Another money maker, until you learn the Swedish farmer says you can only milk a moose five months a year and that each milking takes two hours. Moose kick their huge legs and feet sideways, so their legs would have to be restrained. They also bite, and head butt. The farmer raised three orphan moose, and, as they are pets, they’re more docile. Raising moose privately is illegal in Alaska, so we would have to rely on a hunter. Our kids used to name our resident moose, but I don’t think the name “Cecil” was ever used. Maybe the hunter would be safe.
By the way, I’m not sure who’d want to milk a moose, but Moose Milk is Canada’s national drink. They make theirs from ice cream and eggs beat together, and coffee, or latte if you’re a snob, syrups, other flavorings, spices or liqueur are added as desired. Canadians mix it up and chug it down. One man who has tried real moose milk in Russia says the Canadian version is better.
Can anyone help save Bear’s job? Do you know where to obtain oxgall? Maybe we could all become rich by making old-fashioned soothing and life-saving salves before the FDA shuts us down.
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Contact Info for those who would like to know more on the biofilm role in autoimmune diseases:
Interim Lead, Communications
Director, Internal Communications
Temple University Health System
3509 N. Broad St., 9th Floor Philadelphia, PA 19140
For info on Bald’s eye salve:
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