The Newest Natural Cure: How Tea Tree Oil Helps Fight MRSA
The superbug known as MRSA is developing into more and more of a concern as it becomes increasingly resistant to traditional treatments such as penicillin. As such, scientists are actively looking for other ways to combat this superbug . . . and they may have found one: tea tree oil. Keep reading for more information on this “natural” approach to fighting the possibly deadly effects of MRSA.
Why is MRSA Such a Threat?
It breeds most readily in hospitals and nursing homes, racing through the immune-deficient population and resisting common antibiotics. It colonizes on clothing, skin and any other surface not carefully sterilized against it. Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA} is just as complicated and scary as it sounds and the concern is growing.
Known as a “superbug,” MRSA is largely untreatable and can cause serious - even lethal - complications like pneumonia, bloodstream infections and wound infections. Treatments such as penicillin and cephalosporin are useless against MRSA, but a current study is researching a possible treatment that could not only be quickly effective, but cost effective as well: tea tree oil.
Current laboratory studies are showing that tea tree oil ointment applied inside the nose and a tea tree body wash can cease the colonization of MRSA bacteria. At present, there is not enough actual human information to determine the true effectiveness of a tea tree oil treatment.
However, in November 2007, a study was commenced to determine the effectiveness of washing daily with a solution containing five percent tea tree oil. The tea tree oil solution is being compared with Johnson's Baby Softwash to find out if the tea tree oil does have the ability to cease colonization of the MRSA bacteria. The trial is due to end in November 2010.
Two Kinds of MRSA
MRSA infections are split into two categories. Infections in individuals who have recently had an invasive medical procedure or been a patient in the hospital within the last year are generally the most severe. People who have MRSA due to skin infections like boils or abscesses are generally considered to have community-associated (CA)-MRSA. CA-MRSA can be caused by skin contact with others infected with MRSA like athletes in sports like wrestling or football.
Who is at Risk?
Hospital patients with open wounds, invasive devices and weak immune systems are most susceptible to MRSA. Without careful sanitary procedures, nurses and doctors can pass the bacteria from one patient to the next. The Center for Disease Control issued an MRSA procedures guide to help reduce the risk of spreading the super bug. Visitors to patients infected with MRSA are generally required to wear gloves, gowns and masks to protect them from contracting the bacteria.
Tea Tree Oil as a Threat?
The study of tea tree oil as a treatment for MRSA is not without controversy. At less than four percent concentration, tea tree oil can actually make MRSA bacteria stronger. It will halt the breeding for a short while, but only long enough for the bacteria to build up further antibiotic resistance. This fact has caused many to be sceptical - and even frightened - at the thought of using tea tree oil as a primary treatment for MRSA.
More recent studies have shown that a tea tree solution of five percent concentration or great is lethal to the bacteria rather than just harmful. In this case, the bacteria would be eradicated permanently rather than strengthened by the solution.
The dangers of low concentrations of tea tree oil are widely unknown. Most often found in beauty products, low levels of tea tree oil can actually aid human pathogens in building up antibiotic resistance. It is not required for manufacturers of products containing tea tree oil to report the concentration of oil in the product.
Looking to the Future
While we can help prevent the growth and spread of MRSA with products containing alcohol and quaternary ammonium, the superbug still has no definitive cure. While tea tree oil may be the answer, the importance of the right concentration means it will most likely be a few years before any sort of tea tree oil solution or ointment is approved for medical use.