NOV 28, 2017 5:26 PM PST

Fighting Chronic Infections with Garlic

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

New research by scientists at the University of Copenhagen has found that garlic contains a compound that can fight strong bacteria in people with chronic infections. The sulfurous molecule has a destructive effect on components of the bacterial communication system, which utilizes regulatory RNA molecules. The work has been published in the journal Scientific Reports and is briefly summarized in the following video.

“We really believe this method can lead to treatment of patients, who otherwise have poor prospects, because chronic infections like cystic fibrosis can be very robust. But now we, together with a private company, have enough knowledge to further develop the garlic drug and test it on patients,” explained Assistant Professor Tim Holm Jakobsen, of the Costerton Biofilm Center at the Department of Immunology and Microbiology.

This research adds to work by the lab of Professor Michael Givskov; since 2005 they have been investigating the effect of garlic on bacteria. After first finding that garlic can inhibit bacteria, they went on to show that the compound ajoene is responsible. This new inquiry delves deeper into the mechanism behind the effects of the sulfurous ajoene, in two kinds of bacteria. 

“The two types of bacteria we have studied are very important. They are called Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. They actually belong to two very different bacteria families and are normally fought using different methods. But the garlic compound is able to fight both at once and therefore may prove an effective drug when used together with antibiotics,” noted Tim Holm Jakobsen.

Garlic may be a good way to fight chronic infections. / Image credit: Pixabay

In this work, they showed that in P. aeruginosa, the expression of the sRNAs RsmY and RsmZ were lowered by ajoene; in S. aureus the expression of the small dual-function regulatory RNA, RNAIII was reduced. This impacts the virulence of the bacteria.

It has been demonstrated that garlic is a natural and very powerful way to fight bacteria. Not only does it inhibit the RNA molecules in bacteria, active garlic also disrupts the slimy and resilient film formed by microbial colonies, called biofilm. The disruptive action of garlic provides a window of opportunity for the immune system and for antibiotics to attack bacteria directly, which can result in the complete ablation of the bacterial infection. 


A patent was written for ajoene for fighting bacterial infections; the company Neem Biotech now has the license to use it. They are developing a treatment for cystic fibrosis, NX-AS-401, which is considered an orphan drug. Patients will soon be participating in clinical trials of the drug.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via University of Copenhagen, Scientific Reports

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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