Tea tree oil, silver act like antiseptics when combined

March 30th, 2009 - 3:03 pm ICT by IANS  

London, March 30 (IANS) Tea tree oil and silver, when combined and applied to infected skin wounds, seem to act like a potent antiseptic.
Both tea tree oil and silver (as silver nitrate) are effective singly against a range of micro-organisms, but combining them in low doses boosted their antimicrobial activity, said Li Low and colleagues from University of Wolverhampton.

They carried out lab tests on pathogens that are involved in skin infections. Bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus (common cause of skin infections and abscesses), and the yeast Candida albicans, which causes fungal infection, were killed.

These positive findings led the researchers to use microscopic spherical bodies called liposomes, made of phospholipids, the naturally occurring lipids or fats in the cell walls membranes, to deliver the silver and tea tree oil mix to infected wounds the pathogens.

This technique allows controlled release and therefore has the potential to use lower, less toxic, concentrations of the antimicrobial agents to treat infected wounds. This may also be of value to treat antibiotic resistant strains.

Used alone, both silver and tea tree oil can cause side-effects in patients. Over exposure to silver can cause a bluish-grey discolouration of the skin and applying unregulated amounts of tea tree oil externally can cause skin irritation.

Creams containing lower amounts of the agents could provide safer and readily available over-the-counter antiseptic compounds for effective treatment without damaging the surrounding skin, said a Wolverhampton release.

The researchers presented these findings at the Society for General Microbiology meeting in Harrogate UK on Monday.

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