In 2007, many people were stunned when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data stating that MRSA killed more people than AIDS in the United States. MRSA, which stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a bacterial infection that is resistant to standard antibiotics. Though MRSA is not a new problem, people are now much more aware of the infection and fear lack of treatment options. Scientists are currently studying the plant turmeric and its main ingredient, curcumin, for its antibacterial and antiviral properties. Someday, it may be a viable treatment option for MRSA.
Turmeric is not a newly discovered plant. In fact, herbalists have used turmeric’s medicinal properties to treat arthritis, liver and kidney ailments for more than four centuries. It is only recently, however, that researchers have started studying the perennial for its potential medicinal effects. Turmeric appears to have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help treat a number of maladies, including atherosclerosis, osteoarthritis, cataracts and eye inflammation. Turmeric is also a strong antioxidant, helping to protect cells from damage and DNA from particles known as free radicals.
Though people fear developing MRSA, the bacteria commonly live on the skin and in the nasal passages of many healthy people. MRSA only becomes an infection when the bacteria enter the skin, most often through a cut, sore, breathing tube or catheter. In some cases, infections are small and locally maintained, such as a pimple or small abscess. But infections may develop into a more serious condition that involves the lungs, blood, heart and bones. Serious infections occur most often in people with compromised immune systems, making MRSA prevalent in hospitals and long-term care facilities.
Symptoms of MRSA often include drainage of pus or fluid at the point of entry, fever, skin abscess and warmth around infected areas. If staph infection worsens, you may experience chest pain, cough, fatigue, fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, shortness of breath, rash and a feeling of malaise. Treatment for MRSA often involves long-term antibiotic treatment with one of a small number of antibiotics that still work to treat MRSA.
As of 2011, no studies are under way regarding the use of turmeric to treat MRSA. However, scientists have only recently started researching turmeric’s uses, and research is still in its infancy. Laboratory and animal testing of turmeric’s antibacterial and antiviral properties does show promise, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, but more research is necessary before scientists know whether the plant will have antibacterial properties in humans and which bacterium, if any, is affected by turmeric.
Due to a lack of human clinical trials, researchers do not know if medicinal doses of turmeric will lead to adverse events or side effects. Turmeric may interfere with medications that slow blood clotting such as warfarin and aspirin, when taken together, excessive bleeding may occur. Turmeric may also interact with medications that reduce stomach acid, by increasing acid and potentially exacerbating the condition. Pregnant women should avoid using turmeric medicinally as it may stimulate uterine contractions. This may lead to miscarriage or preterm labor.