Eating cranberries may prevent bacterial infections and potentially minimise our dependence on antibiotics, new research suggests. Scientists from McGill University and INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier in Canada showed that cranberry extract successfully interrupted the communication between bacteria associated with problematic and pervasive infections.
The findings may have implications for development of alternative approaches to control infections, researchers said. Previous research has shown that American cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon L) contains compounds – such as proanthocyanidins (PACs) – that provide antioxidant, anti-adhesion and anti-microbial properties that help fend off illness.
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Researchers hypothesised that cranberries may also have an anti-virulence potential. They wanted to know if these cranberry compounds could help manage bacterial infections.
By feeding fruit flies – a commonly used model for studying human infections – cranberry extract, the team discovered that cranberry provided flies protection from a bacterial infection and they lived longer than their cranberry-free counterparts.
In essence, the cranberry extract reduced the severity of the bacterial infection. “This means that cranberries could be part of the arsenal used to manage infections and potentially minimise the dependence on antibiotics for the global public,” said Nathalie Tufenkji, professor at McGill University.
“Cranberry PACs interrupt the ability for bacteria to communicate with each other, spread and become virulent – a process known as quorum sensing,” said Eric Deziel, professor at INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier.
“The cranberry extract successfully interferes with the chain of events associated with the spread and severity of chronic bacterial infections,” said Deziel.
Added to the evidence of cranberry’s role in preventing recurrent urinary tract infections by blocking bacteria from sticking to cell walls, the current study suggests that PACs may help control the virulence or spread of potentially dangerous bacterial infections around the world. The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.