Natural blue clay minerals are effective against major bacterial infections

| By | Antimicrobial Resistance, R&D

Researchers at Arizona State University and Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota (USA), have found that at least one type of blue clay may help fight disease-causing bacteria in wounds, including antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The findings appear in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents. This work builds on earlier ASU-led research into how two metallic elements — chemically reduced iron and aluminum — in blue clays operate in tandem to kill germs. That research involved the use of ASU’s NanoSIMS, which is part of the National Science Foundation-supported Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry Facility.

Biofilms occur when bacteria attach to surfaces and develop a film or protective coating, making them relatively antibiotic-resistant. An everyday example, Williams said, is the film on your teeth first thing in the morning. Roughly two-thirds of the infections seen by doctors, nurses and other health care providers involve biofilms.

In laboratory tests the researchers found the clay has antibacterial effects against bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, including resistant strains such as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

The research is preliminary, and the authors caution that only one concentration of the clay suspension was tested. The lab tests are a first step in simulating the complex environment found in an actual infected wound. They also caution that not all types of clay are beneficial. Some may actually help bacteria grow. More research is needed to identify and reproduce the properties of clays that are antibacterial, with the goal of possibly synthesizing a consistent compound of the key minerals under quality control.