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  1. ITV Report

Sweet science: could honey replace traditional antibiotics?

Honey products are being developed by researchers at the University of Birmingham in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

The team, led by chemical engineer Dr Sophie Cox, hope the honey could be used to replace traditional antibiotics, which haven't been newly discovered since the 1980s.

Antibiotic resistance happens when the bacteria that cause infections mutate in response to the use of these medicines, so the treatments are no longer effective.

By 2050, it could be a bigger killer than cancer and mean that patients are refused emergency surgery and routine operations such as hip replacements, because the risk of infection is too high.

Credit: PA

Human's relationship with honey goes back as far as the ancient Egyptians, who used it as a sweetener but also to preserve human and animal remains.

It contains natural antibiotics called reactive oxygen species which destroy bacteria and are produced naturally by the body to fight infection.

However, it is sticky and difficult to apply the correct dose.

The team at University of Birmingham are working on ways to deliver a sterile honey product to wounds, including a spray, a cream, and a powder – making it effective in surgery, war zones and potentially in the home.

Honey is a product that has natural anti-microbial properties because of the release of a chemical called reactive oxygen. The difficulty with this product at the moment is that it's hard to control the release of the chemical. What we're doing is coming up with novel ways of releasing the chemical in a controlled manner so that it can be delivered to different parts of the body.

– Dr Sophie Cox, University of Birmingham

Since the research project at Birmingham University began three years ago the there's been promising evidence that there isn't any resistance to honey.

It's also been proven as an effective killer of superbugs such as MRSA.

Currently campaigning for more funding, the team are hopeful that the earliest antibiotic honey products will be available within the next five years.