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Green Tea Component Counters Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotics, Probiotics, & Diabetes | Health Blog

Article Summary:

  • Antibiotic Resistance is a major public health problem that leads to at least 23,000 deaths annually in the US and threatens to become increasingly deadly.
  • Researchers have found that an antioxidant in green tea works to counter antibiotic resistance.
  • Green tea provides many other benefits and is a worthy addition to your health regimen.

Prevalence of Antibiotic Resistance

One of the terrors of the medical world is the increasing appearance of infections that don’t respond to antibiotics because the infectious agents have “learned” how to resist antibiotic drugs targeting those infections. We could offer plenty of reasons to object to overreliance on antibiotics by the mainstream medical establishment, but the fact is that antibiotics certainly can be useful in curing deadly diseases and preventing pandemics. Only a few decades ago, we could claim that diseases like gonorrhea were no longer a huge threat to the public because antibiotic prescriptions offered an easy cure, but the increasing development of antibiotic resistant pathogens is undermining that progress.

You’ve probably seen articles about antibiotic-resistant MRSA staph infection spreading in hospitals and killing patients, but MRSA is just the tip of the antibiotic-resistant iceberg. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), antibiotic resistance currently ranks among the gravest of public health challenges.

“Each year in the U.S., at least 2 million people get an antibiotic-resistant infection, and at least 23,000 people die,” the CDC website reports. When one antibiotic fails against a particular bacteria, doctors typically try others, but some bacteria are becoming resistant to all antibiotics.

Conditions Increasingly Difficult to Cure Because of Antibiotic Resistance

The CDC released a report in 2013 ranking the greatest health threats caused by antibiotic resistance. (A new report is due out this year). Among the most worrisome:

  1. Clostridioides difficile (also known as C. difficile). This bacteria strain causes severe diarrhea and colitis, infecting about 150,000 patients annually in the US and killing one in 10 of those patients, resulting in about 15,000 US deaths per year.
  2. Drug-resistant gonorrhea, with 246,000 cases, on average, per year.
  3. Infections causes by Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), Acineobacter, and Campolybacter. Together, these three strains of bacteria cause about 326,000 drug-resistant infections annually. Some types of CRE are resistant to all antibiotics.
  4. Other diseases becoming increasingly resistant include some forms of tuberculosis, bacterial pneumonia, typhoid fever, and salmonella.

Green Tea and Antibiotic Resistance

Researchers at the University of Surrey in Great Britain recently published a study in the Journal of Medical Microbiology describing success using an antioxidant found in green tea to render the antibiotic Aztreonam effective against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. [fn]Betts, Jonathan W., et al. “Restoring the activity of the antibiotic aztreonam using the polyphenol epigallocatechin gallate (ECGC) against multidrug-resistant clinical isolates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. August 16 2019. Journal of Medical Microbiology. 30 September 2019.[/fn] The scientists were attempting to find an effective method for attacking the P. aeruginosa bacteria, which causes serious respiratory tract and bloodstream infection in about 6700 Americans annually, killing about 440 people. P. aeruginosa recently has become resistant even to last-line antibiotics, including aztreonam, but when combined with the antioxidant epigallocatechin (EGCG) from green tea, the antibiotic was strengthened and able to overcome the bacteria. Even more, when the antibiotic/green tea combination was tested on human skin cells, no ill effects were observed.

The scientists believe that EGCG rendered the drug-resistant bacteria more permeable so that the antibiotic could penetrate it, increasing uptake. They also think that it might block a biochemical pathway that interferes with antibiotics.

The study director, Dr. Jonathan Betts of the University of Surrey Veterinary School, said, “We urgently need to develop novel antibiotics in the fight against AMR [anti-microbial resistance]. Natural products such as EGCG, used in combination with currently licensed antibiotics, may be a way of improving their effectiveness and clinically useful lifespan.” [fn]“Green tea could hold the key to reducing antibiotic resistance.” 24 September 2019. Neuroscience News. 30 September 2019.[/fn]

Green Tea, Beyond Antibiotic Resistance

Hopefully, you won’t develop any serious antibiotic-resistant infections, particularly if you keep your immune system strong by eating well, exercising, and supplementing with immune-building formulas and pathogen-killers, as needed. It certainly couldn’t hurt to add green tea to your regimen. If the worst should occur, it might be useful to drink green tea along with taking your prescription drug, though perhaps you’d need a more concentrated dose than you can get from a cup and saucer. Before assuming clinical usefulness and consuming kegs of sencha, though, note that it’s unclear if EGCG works in combination with antibiotics other than the one it’s already been tested with, or if it would be effective against other resistant pathogens. Nor is it clear what form or quantity it would need to be consumed in to be effective in infected humans. The research to date was conducted on Greater Wax Moths and human skin cells. Further research clearly needs to be completed.

In the meantime, drinking green tea certainly won’t hurt you. In fact, we’ve written before about benefits conferred by green tea, including cutting the risk of developing certain cancers and preventing recurrence of tumors. These benefits likely are due to the effect of the powerful antioxidants, called catechins, in green tea. Also, green tea is a natural “telomerase inhibitor,” which means it renders cancer cells vulnerable to cell death. Green tea also may prevent kidney stones, help to regulate blood sugar, reduce triglycerides, reverse the effects of heart disease, and protect against both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

And if green tea is not your thing, you can always look for a full-spectrum antioxidant formula that contains a concentrated green tea extract high in EGCG.