Could Green Tea Hold the Key to Combatting Antibiotic Resistance?

Antibiotic resistance is turning into a global threat: the result of indiscriminate use of antimicrobial treatments around the world. Because of this, antibiotic-resistant bacteria continue to grow, causing many of our most powerful—and effective—drugs to lose their efficacy.  This, of course, has immense implications about the health of humans and animals both now and in the future. 

Fortunately, scientists at the University of Surrey are now saying that green tea key could hold the key to restoring this balance.  Scientists say they have found a natural antioxidant common to green tea that, they claim, could help to eliminate antibiotic resistant bacteria. More importantly, this antioxidant—and green tea as a whole—could provide a major step in combating the growing epidemic that is antibiotic resistance. 

Specifically, the study found epigallocatechin—otherwise known as EGCG—has the ability to restore the activity of aztreonam. This is an antibiotic more commonly known as a treatment for infections caused by the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria.  This particular bacterial strain has been associated with a serious respiratory tract and bloodstream infection; and, more importantly, it has become quite resistant to various antibiotics.  

Professor Roberto La Ragione is the Head of the Department of Pathology and Infectious Diseases in the School of Veterinary Medicine.  He explains that the World Health Organization has officially listed the antibiotic-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa as a “critical threat to human health.”  But that said, he comments, “We have shown that we can successfully eliminate such threats with the use of natural products, in combination with antibiotics already in use.”  As such, it is more crucial than ever that we develop antibiotic alternatives and, more importantly, allow their use in clinical settings.  

EGCG is a catechin—a natural phenol antioxidant—that occurs, in small quantities, in black tea leaves and even apple skins, onions, and plums.  

Indeed, lead study author Dr. Jonathan Betts explains, “Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a serious threat to global public health.  Without effective antibiotics, the success of medical treatments will be compromised. We urgently need to develop novel antibiotics in the fight against AMR. Natural products such as EGCG, used in combination with currently licensed antibiotics, may be a way of improving their effectiveness and clinically useful lifespan.”