Maple syrup extract may increase potency of antibiotics

08 April 2017

Canada's sweetest export may have another use, as researchers have found that the maple syrup extract may dramatically increase the potency of antibiotics.

Maple syrup has long been a popular accompaniment to pancakes and other snacks.


Dr Nathalie Tufenkji, from McGill University, has investigated the anti-cancer properties of a phenolic maple syrup extract.

In an experiment, Dr Tufenkji and colleagues separated the sugar and water from store-bought syrup's phenolic compounds, which contribute to maple syrup's signature golden hue.

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In an initial test, the team exposed several disease-causing bacterial strains to the extract, but they did not see much of an effect. However, they then decided to see whether the extract could enhance the antimicrobial potency of the commonly used antibiotics, and found significant results.

The mixing of antibiotics with the phenolic extract, allowed the team to get the same antimicrobial effect using less than 10 percent of antibiotic dosage. The approach worked on a variety of bacterial strains, including E Coli, which can cause gastrointestinal problems and Proteus mirabilis, responsible for many urinary tract infections.

The researchers also tested the extract in fruit flies and moth larvae and found that the flies that had meals doused in maple syrup lived for days longer than their counterparts, with a similar outcome found with the moth larvae.

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Dr Tufenkji added that her team also analysed whether the extract changed the permeability of bacterial cells. They found that the extract increased the permeability of the bacteria, suggesting that it helps antibiotics gain access to the interior of bacterial cells.

Currently, the researchers are testing the maple syrup extract in mice, though they caution it will take years before doctors are able to prescribe the extract to their patients.

"There are other products out there that boost antibiotic strength, but this may be the only one that comes from nature," said Dr Tufenkji.

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