Medicinal plants used in the Civil War inhibit the growth of drug-resistant bacteria

During the Civil War in the United States, many soldiers died not from bullets, but from infections spreading among the wounded. When Union forces blocked the supply of supplies, including medicines, one Confederate physician created an inventory of medicinal plants used by Native Americans and enslaved Africans. In a new study, scientists have found that at least several of them have antiseptic properties and can help fight drug-resistant bacteria.

The U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) was a bloody conflict in which theorym has killed more than 600,000 soldiers. However, some of them did not lose their lives in the fight, and on the łoThe doctor’s office due to infections. In those years, knowledge of microbialow was in its infancy. Anyway, the medical training of doctors rowas also at similar levels.

However, the theory of bacteria causing infections gradually began to gain acceptance in the medical community. Antiseptics, although the doctors using them had no idea how they worked, were increasingly used. According to experts at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, iodine and bromine were used for this purpose, although the reason for their effectiveness was unknown. Other remedies available at the time included quinine to treat malaria and morphine and chloroform to block bolu.

Military field hospitals of Confederate forces did not have easy access to medicinesow due to the blockade of. The Union fleet closely monitored the head of theoin the South’s main ports to prevent the supply of supplies. In the face of a lack of resourcesow therapeutic Confederation authorities ordered a search for alternatives. This task was entrusted to botanist and surgeon Francis Porcher.

As part of his work, Porcher prepared a compilation of medicinal plants growing in the southern states of America PoNorth. To this end, they drew on indigenous knowledgeoin the areaow and slaveoIn imported from Africa. In this wayob has been created „Resources pol and forestoin southern” published in 1863, whichoin which a description of 37 species ofoin plants used to treat gangrene and other infections.

Porcher’s work was looked at by researchers at Emory University. They were interested in the particularolnie three plants described in the guide – American tulip tree, spiny aralia and white oak. Scientists found that they had antiseptic properties. The results of their research were published in „Scientific Reports”.

Scientists have found that extracts from these plants exhibit potent antimicrobial activity and can be used against dangerous species of drug-resistant bacteria: Acinetobacter baumannii, Staphylococcus aureus i Klebsiella pneumoniae.

– Our findings suggest that the use of these plants in therapy may have saved someore limbs, and perhaps even life, during the Civil War – said Cassandra Quave of Emory University, head of theowna author of the publication.

Quave’s research looks at plants used in traditional health practices. Its goal is to find promising candidatesow for new drugs. – Ethnobotany is essentially the science of survival – how people cope when they are limited to what is available in their immediate environment. Guide with timeoin the civil war concerning the middleoin plants is an excellent example of this – admitted.

A copy of the work „Resources pol and forestoin southern". Photo.Stephen Nowland, Emory University

– Our research may one day benefit wspohe field of modern medicine, especiallyolnie in wound healing if we can identify compounds responsible for antimicrobial activity,” noted Micah Dettweiler, cooroutor of publications.

Another of the coołautoroin the research, Daniel Zurawski of the Walter Reed Military Research Institute added that when active ingredients are successfully identified, they are then tested in coomodern models of bacterial infections. – I have always been interested in the Civil War. I am roalso a firm believer in learning all we can from the past so that we can now benefit from the knowledge and wisdom of our ancestorsow – he added.

– I was surprised to learn that many more soldiers during the Civil War died from diseaseob than in battle. I was surprised by the roalso how common limb amputation was in treating an infected wound – admitted Dettweiler. About one in 13 surviving Civil War soldiers wrohe came home with one or more missing limbs.

As part of a new research probks of the aforementioned three plants were tested on three species resistant to multiple drugsoin bacteria commonly found in wound infections. Acinetobacter baumannii is known due to its frequent occurrence among theod American soldiers returning from Iraq. It shows high resistance to most antibioticsow. – It appears as a majorohe major threat to soldiers, whichoers suffered wounds in battle and ogolnie for hospitals – confirmed Quave.

In turn Staphylococcus aureus i.e., staphylococcus aureus is considered very dangerous. It is resistant to methicillin and vancomycin. It most often causes purulent infections of skory, but it spreads easily, especiallyolnie amongod of hospital staff, which is important when it comes to in-hospital infections. Infection with it can lead to diarrhea, vomitingoin, and in extreme cases even to death.

Klebsiella pneumoniae that is, the pneumonia bacillus is also a majorow a major cause of hospital-acquired infections and can lead to life-threatening cases ofoin pneumonia and septic shock. The first two of these bacteria were on a UN-published list of drug-resistant bacteria, whichore are the greatest threat to humans.

Laboratory studies have shown that extracts of American tulip tree and white oak inhibited the growth of S. aureus, While white oak extracts inhibited roalso increase A. baumannii i K. pneumoniae. Extracts from both of these plants inhibited roalso S. aureus in the formation of biofilmoin whichore can act as a shield against antibiotics.

Spikenard aralia extract inhibited biofilm formation in infections S. aureus. Prevented roalso creating a signaling system, whichory bacteria use to produce toxins. Blocking this system essentially „disarms” bacteria.

– Traditional plant remedies are often rejected if they do not actively attack and kill the pathogenoin, but there are many waysow to help treat infections and we need to focus on them in the era of drug-resistant bacteria – emphasized Quave.