Vegemite beats up on superbugs

Vegemite, the humble Aussie spread, could be the key to battling antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Don’t rush out and eat jar loads of the stuff just yet, there’s a little more science to it than that.

Study findings published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that high doses of nicotinamide, or vitamin B3 as it’s more commonly known, increased by 1000 times the ability of immune cells to kill staph bacteria. The doses administered were much greater than any amount which could be consumed in the average diet. There is no evidence that taking B3 supplements, or eating foods which contain the vitamin, such as Vegemite, in vast quantities could prevent or treat bacterial infection.

One of the many fears of people entering hospital for treatment or an operation is contracting a superbug, which can develop in such environments. These superbugs are often resistant to antibiotics and can result in an extended hospital stay or can even be life-threatening.

The study used laboratory animals and human blood to depict how an increase in numbers and effectiveness of a particular white blood cell could be obtained by administering megadoses of B3. This particular white blood cell, known as neutrophils, could kill harmful bacteria. One of the strains of staph on which this was tested was methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA as most people know it. Clinical doses of B3 wiped out the MRSA in just a few hours when used in human blood but it would prove difficult and expensive to fully replicate the study as a human trial.

Find out more about the study from the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Written by Debbie McTaggart