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Mud Harnessed to Fight Infections
Date:4/6/2008

Researchers searched world, found 3 clays that beat back toughest germs

SUNDAY, April 6 (HealthDay News) -- It looks like dirt might one day be better than soap at keeping harmful bacteria at bay.

Arizona scientists report they have found a host of anti-microbial minerals in mud that could be the makings of a new generation of unconventional but effective creams to combat the nastiest germs. Increasingly dangerous antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" -- such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) -- are the primary targets of these new medicinal clay cocktails, the researchers said.

"For hundreds of thousands of years, clays have been used for wound-healing and even gastrointestinal problems," noted study co-author Shelley E. Haydel, an assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences at the Arizona State University Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology in Tempe. "And there are a lot of people out there who already use mud therapeutically, without really knowing how it's working."

"And now we're seeing effectiveness in the lab, from a microbiological standpoint," she added. "So now, the question is: How can this translate into something practical?"

Haydel and her team were expected to present their mud therapy research April 6 at the American Chemical Society annual meeting, in New Orleans.

With funding from the National Institutes of Health, Haydel and her colleagues collected 20 different clay samples from all over the world. After categorizing each clay's composition, they then tested for antimicrobial properties against a wide range of different bacteria, including: antibiotic-resistant strains of MRSA; the flesh-eating Mycobacterium ulcerans; and E. coli and salmonella.

In the lab, Haydel and her colleagues identified three clays that appeared to kill or substantially reduce growth among all the tested bacteria, including MRSA.

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