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PLoS One. 2018 Nov 28;13(11):e0208108. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0208108. eCollection 2018.

Characterization of the antibacterial activity of Bald's eyesalve against drug resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, United States of America.


Bald's eyesalve is an Anglo-Saxon medicinal remedy that has been used through ancient times to treat eye sty infections and may represent a source of ancientbiotics. This study assessed the efficacy of Bald's eyesalve against several strains of Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, including a multi-drug resistant phenotype, and identified the principal compound conveying antibacterial activity. Bald's eyesalve formulations were produced by combining garlic, onion or leek, wine, bovine bile, and brass, with specific ingredient omissions in several formulations, followed by incubation at 4 °C for 9 days. Bald's eyesalve formulation ES-GBBr exhibited the greatest antibacterial activity against S. aureus and P. aeruginosa. Fractionation of ES-GBBr using molecular size exclusion and organic solvent partitioning isolated its antibacterial activity to the small molecule nonpolar fraction, and 1D 1H NMR revealed the identity of the antibacterial agent to be allicin. Depletion of allicin from this fraction by addition of exogenous cysteine established that all observable growth inhibition originated from allicin. Quantification of allicin demonstrated that its concentration was significantly greater in ES-GBBr compared to the ES-O formulation; however, this was not due to greater yield. The antibacterial activity of allicin against S. aureus was antagonized by other ingredients within Bald's eyesalve, whereas they were additive or synergistic against P. aeruginosa. These results suggest that neither leek nor onion is necessary for the antibacterial efficacy of Bald's eyesalve against S. aureus or P. aeruginosa, and while allicin was identified as the principal antibacterial agent present, its activity is influenced differentially in the presence of additional Bald's eyesalve ingredients when used against S. aureus compared to P. aeruginosa. Ancientbiotics may provide a source of promising antibacterials; however, identifying the source of activity and assessing distinct formulations for cooperative effects are essential to using ancient remedies, such as Bald's eyesalve, effectively against drug resistant pathogens.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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