What do you get when you mix leeks, garlic, wine and bull gall, then ferment it in a copper pot for nine days? In the Anglo-Saxon era, this concoction made a terrific treatment for eye styes but recently researchers have found it equally effective against the scourge of modern medicine: antibiotic-resistant MRSA "superbugs." Freya Harrison, a microbiologist at the University of Nottingham, UK working with Dr Christina Lee, an Anglo-Saxon expert from the School of English, found the ancient recipe in Bald's Leechbook, an Old English medical compendium. The two decided to test its against modern skin infections. Using the oldest heirloom vegetable varieties she could find, Harrison brewed up the recipe, then let it stand the requisite time. What she poured out displayed some incredible antibiotic characteristics.
"It was self-sterilising," Harrison told New Scientist. That is, all the bacteria which had hitched a ride into the bottle aboard the dirt stuck to the vegetables, was dead at the end of the fermentation period. And, when applied to skin lesions on mice infected with the antibiotic-resistant Staph infection, the stye mix killed 90 percent of present bacteria. Interestingly, Harrison discovered that the individual ingredients didn't work nearly as well as the combined mixture. Harrison and her team hopes that this discovery will lead to alternative treatments to today's standard prescription of antibiotics (and lots of them). She is slated to deliver her findings at the Society for General Microbiology conference in Birmingham, UK later this week. But, like injecting medically-available chemicals into your eyes for temporary night vision, just because you can do it at home doesn't mean it's a good idea to try.