Canadian researchers discovered that components of maple syrup may boost the antimicrobial effects of antibiotics by as much as 90% when used in combination. This synergy could provide an effective solution for the alarming threat of multi-drug resistant bacteria.

The misuse and overuse of antibiotics throughout the 21st century accelerated the evolution of drug-resistant bacteria, which led to the emergence of an increasing number of these so-called “superbugs“. Antibiotic resistance is regarded as one of the biggest threats to humanity by the WHO, largely due to the lack of new antimicrobial drugs in the pipeline and the irresponsible use of existing ones.

Sir Alexander Fleming, the inventor of the first antibiotic penicillin warned about the overuse of antibiotics as early as 1945 in his famous quote: “The thoughtless person playing with penicillin treatment is morally responsible for the death of the man who succumbs to infection with the penicillin-resistant organism.”

Authorities have been striving to educate the general public about the importance of responsible antibiotics use, a crucial measure for preventing a potential post-antibiotic apocalypse. Research shows that reducing the amount of antibiotics used, especially in treatment of minor infections should be our top priority.

The recent discovery by a Canadian team at the McGill University revealed a very unexpected solution could be hiding in, quite ironically, maple syrup. The group led by Dr. Natalie Tufenkji found that the golden liquid boosts the effectiveness of antibiotics by facilitating efficient delivery to the bacterial cells.

“Native populations in Canada have long used maple syrup to fight infections. That gave me the idea to check its antimicrobial activity” said Dr. Tufenkji.

It appears the synergistic effect comes as a result of the phenolic compounds found in maple syrup, which permeate the bacteria´s inner membrane and make the cells more susceptible to the drug, as well as disarm their internal defenses by inhibiting efflux pumps.

Preliminary results show that the amount of antibiotics needed to treat infections was reduced by upwards of 90% when the drugs were combined with the maple syrup extract. The combination proved efficient against a variety of common pathogens, including E. Coli, Proteus mirabilis and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The team presented their discovery at the 253rd National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

“I’ve always been interested in the science behind (these) folk medicines. There are other products out there that boost antibiotic strength, but this may be the only one that comes from nature” concluded Dr. Tufenkji.

Learn more about the team´s exciting discovery in the video bellow:


By Luka Zupančič, MSc, University of Applied Sciences Technikum Vienna