A new study has shown that a compound extracted from licorice root, commonly used in candies, can help fight rare, but deadly infections.
A team of scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch and Shriners Hospitals for Children have revealed that a compound called glycyrrhizin might be an effective tool in battling life-threatening, antibiotic-resistant infections resulting from severe burns.
The study showed that in burned mice, glycyrrhizin improved the ability of damaged skin to create small proteins that serve as the first line of defense against Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection.
These proteins, called antimicrobial peptides, work by puncturing the cell membranes of bacteria similar to how pins pop balloons.
"It is our hope that the medicinal uses of glycyrrhizin will lead to lower death rates associated with infection in burn patients," said Fujio Suzuki, Ph.D., one of the researchers involved in the work.
"Burns are the most painful of all injuries and the deadly Pseudomonas infections that can result from severe burns do more than add insult to those injuries,” said Dr John Wherry, Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.
“This research should serve as an important stepping stone toward helping develop new drugs that help prevent or treat Pseudomonas," he added.
Suzuki also said that more research is necessary to determine if this finding would have any implications for people with cystic fibrosis, who can develop Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections in their lungs.
The study appears in Journal of Leukocyte Biology.