There are numerous reasons why garlic is considered as a super food. Recently, researchers discovered another potent compound in garlic with antibiotic properties that are 100 times more powerful against Campylobacter jejuni, a bacterium that causes food poisoning, than two antibiotics that are commonly used to combat the said pathogen.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, every year, about 2.4 million people in the U.S. suffer from food-borne illness caused by Campylobacter. The bacterium “is simply the most common bacterial cause of food-borne illness in the United States and probably the world,” says the study’s co-author, Michael Konkel. Those who contract the infection often suffer from abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, and fever. Campylobacter is also responsible for almost one-third of the cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disorder that causes paralysis.
Konkel and Dr. Xiaonan Lu, the paper’s lead author, add that their findings are an important first step towards the development of new intervention strategies that can help prevent or reduce the risk of contamination of the food supply by the disease-causing bacteria. Both researchers are from Washington State University.
The bacteria often contaminate water, milk, and poultry; other foods may also carry the bacteria through cross-contamination when they come in contact with surfaces or utensils used in the preparation of poultry.
Unlike other bacterial cells, the Campylobacter jejuni bacterium has 1,000 times more resistance to antibiotics because it is protected by a slimy biofilm. Dr. Lu and his team studied the effectiveness of diallyl sulfide, a compound derived from garlic, in penetrating the protective barrier and killing the bacterial cells. Their findings revealed that diallyl sulfide was 100 times more effective than erythromycin and ciprofloxacin and also works much faster than these antibiotics.
While their results are very promising, Konkel says their work is only at its initial stages and real-world application of their results is not yet feasible. More specifically, simply eating garlic is not likely to offer any protection against Campylobacter-caused food-borne illness. In terms of practical applications, the compound can be used “in the environment and to clean industrial food processing equipment” to reduce the levels of the bacteria in these settings, adds Konkel.
Another co-author, Barbara Rasco, says, “Diallyl sulfide could make many foods safer to eat. It can be used to clean food preparation surfaces and as a preservative in packaged foods like potato and pasta salads, coleslaw and deli meats. This would not only extend shelf life but it would also reduce the growth of potentially bad bacteria.”
The team’s findings were published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.