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Could Garlic Cure Antimicrobial-Resistant Urinary Tract Infections?

Last updated July 14, 2015

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

A team of researchers from Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences in India has found that garlic extract possessed effective anti-microbial properties against multiple drug resistant clinical pathogens.

A team of researchers from Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences in India has found that garlic extract possessed effective anti-microbial properties against multiple drug resistant clinical pathogens.

The so-called rise of “superbugs,” the multiple drug resistant form/s of clinical pathogens, is considered an impending threat by the healthcare industry. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are high proportions of antibiotic resistance in bacteria that cause urinary tract infections (UTIs), pneumonia, and bloodstream infections all over the world. In fact, in March 2015, the US White House announced a National Action Plan to address the issue of multiple drug resistant bacteria. In the words of the plan, “coordinated and complementary efforts of individuals and groups around the world, including public- and private-sector partners, health care providers, health care leaders, veterinarians, agriculture industry leaders, manufacturers, policymakers, and patients” are needed to address this issue.

As reported by the WHO, UTIs are one set of infections that are increasingly becoming antibiotic resistant. The research being discussed here was conducted to explore alternative therapies for antibiotic resistant causative bacteria of UTIs. Garlic is considered a natural antibiotic from ancient times, and there are several reports indicating its efficacy against microbes.

The scientists used bacterial isolates from urine samples of 166 patients with a confirmed UTI for the study. The bacterial resistance to various antibiotics was recorded. The observations from the experiments conducted were the following:

  • Of the 166 bacterial samples, 56% were highly resistant to multiple antibiotics.
  • Of these multiple antibiotic bacteria, about 82% showed susceptibility to crude garlic extract.

This study is apparently the first of its kind to show the effect of garlic extract on multi-antibiotic resistant bacteria that are responsible for UTIs. The authors state in the publication, “It is interesting to note that even crude extracts of this plant showed good activity against multidrug resistant strains where antibiotic therapy had limited or no effect.”

The findings of this study, while interesting and opening up possibilities, do need validation in terms of usability of garlic in combating infectious diseases. In the authors’ own words, “To conclude, there is evidence that garlic has potential in the treatment of UTI and maybe other microbial infections. However, it is necessary to determine the bioavailability, side effects, and pharmacokinetic properties in more detail.”

Written by Mangala Sarkar, Ph.D.

Primary References:

Garlic to combat antimicrobial resistant urinary tract infections. (n.d.). Retrieved July 12, 2015, from http://www.researchsea.com/html/article.php/aid/8915/cid/1/research/science/universiti_putra_malaysia__upm_/using_garlic_to_combat_antimicrobial_resistant_urinary_tract_infections_.html

Gupta, S., Kapur, S., Padmavathi, D., & Verma, A. (2015). Garlic: An Effective Functional Food to Combat the Growing Antimicrobial Resistance. Pertanika Journals: Tropical Agricultural Science, 38(2), 271-278.

Additional References:

Antimicrobial resistance. (n.d.). Retrieved July 12, 2015, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs194/en/

Garlic: A natural antibiotic. (n.d.). Retrieved July 12, 2015, from http://pubs.acs.org/subscribe/archive/mdd/v05/i04/html/04news4.html

Ross, Z., O'gara, E., Hill, D., Sleightholme, H., & Maslin, D. (2001). Antimicrobial Properties of Garlic Oil against Human Enteric Bacteria: Evaluation of Methodologies and Comparisons with Garlic Oil Sulfides and Garlic Powder. APPLIED AND ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY, 67(1), 475-480. 

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: July 14, 2015
Last updated: July 14, 2015