Ancient Medicinal Clay Shows Promise Against Bacterial Infections

Researchers have high hopes for Ice Age deposit

Naturally occurring clay from British Columbia, Canada –– long used by the region's Heiltsuk First Nation for its healing potential –– exhibits potent antibacterial activity against multidrug-resistant pathogens, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia.

The team recommends that the rare mineral clay be studied as a clinical treatment for serious infections caused by the so-called ESKAPE strains of bacteria. The ESKAPE pathogens — Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter species –– cause most of the infections in U.S. hospitals and can effectively resist antibacterial drugs.

The clay deposit is situated on Heiltsuk First Nation’s traditional territory, 250 miles north of Vancouver, Canada, in a shallow five-acre granite basin. The 400,000-ton deposit was formed near the end of the last Ice Age, approximately 10,000 years ago.

Local First Nation people have used the clay for centuries for its therapeutic properties, the researchers said. Anecdotal reports cite its effectiveness for ulcerative colitis, duodenal ulcers, arthritis, neuritis, phlebitis, skin irritation, and burns. No toxic effects of the clay have been reported in humans, according to the researchers.

In in vitro tests, clay suspended in water killed 16 strains of ESKAPE bacteria samples. The next stage will involve clinical studies and toxicity testing, the researchers said.

Source: University of British Columbia; January 26, 2016.

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