Emerging Science Note: Brazilian Peppertree
The red berries of the Brazilian Peppertree. (Photo: Javier Alejandro, Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
The Brazilian Pepper Tree is considered an invasive nuisance in the American South, but Emory University researchers have isolated a compound from the tree’s berries that appears to fight the superbug MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Living on Earth’s Don Lyman reports that the extract seems to suppress the dangerous bacterium’s ability to secrete toxins.
CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Steve Curwood. In a minute, trees that travel, but first this note on emerging science from Don Lyman.
[SCIENCE NOTE THEME]
LYMAN: The Brazilian peppertree is a weedy, invasive species native to South America. Although considered a nuisance in Florida, where it grows in dense thickets and crowds out native plants, scientists at Emory University say traditional healers in the Amazon have treated wounds and skin infections with its bark and berries for hundreds of years.
Now, the Emory researchers have isolated a compound from the berries that appears to prevent skin lesions in mice infected with MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium that can cause serious infections, and is resistant to penicillin and cephalosporin antibiotics.
The scientists say that the compound doesn’t kill the bacteria, but represses a gene that allows them to communicate. This essentially disarms the MRSA bacteria and prevents them from excreting toxins that damage tissues.
Antibiotic-resistant infections are a widespread and growing problem that cause about two million illnesses and 23,000 deaths in the United States each year. The researchers say the Brazilian pepper tree extract could not only provide new ways to treat and prevent these infections, but do so without boosting the bacteria’s ability to resist our antibiotics. That’s this week’s note on emerging science. I’m Don Lyman.
[SCIENCE NOTE THEME]
Living on Earth wants to hear from you!
P.O. Box 990007
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Newsletter [Click here]
Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.
Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.
Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion
The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.
Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.
Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.
Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth