During the height of the Civil War, the Confederate Surgeon General ordered a guide to traditional herbal medicines in the South, as doctors on the battlefield faced high levels of infection among the wounded and a shortage of conventional drugs. A new study of three of the plants in this guide – the white oak, tulip poplars and the devil's cane – reveals that they have antiseptic properties.
Scientific reports published the results of the study, led by scientists from Emory University. The results show that plant extracts have antimicrobial activity against one or more of three trivial types of multi-resistant bacteria associated with wound infections: Acinetobacter baumannii, Stafilococcus aureus and Klebsiella pneumoniae,
"Our findings suggest that using these local therapies may have saved some limbs and may even live during the Civil War," says Cassandra Kouve, senior report author and assistant professor at the Center for the Study of Human Health and Emory. Department of Dermatology at the Medical College.
Quave is an ethnobotanist, studying how people use plants in traditional healing practices to reveal promising candidates for new drugs. "Ethno-botanic is essentially a science of survival – how people deal when they are limited to what is in their immediate environment," she says. "The Civil War Planning Guide is a great example of this."
"Our research could one day help wound care today if we can determine which compounds are responsible for antimicrobial activity," adds Mika Detwayler, the author's first article.
If the active ingredients are identified, "then I hope we can." [further] test these molecules in our world-wide models of bacterial infection, "says co-author Daniel Zuravsky, head of pathogenesis and virulence of the Department of Rare Infections at the Institute of Armed Studies Walther Reed.
"I've always been a lover of civil war," Zuravsky added. "I am also a firm believer in studying everything we can gather from the past so that we can now take advantage of the knowledge and wisdom of our ancestors."
Additional co-authors of this article are Ryan Redinger, of the Walter Reed Research Institute; James Lyle of the Quave Lab; and Kate Nelson of the Emory Department of Dermatology.
Dettweiler is still a student Emory when he heard about the Civil War plant management and decided to study it for his diploma work. He then graduated in Biology and now works as a research specialist at the Quave Lab.
"I was surprised to learn that far more Civil War soldiers died of illness than from fighting," he says. "I was surprised at how often amputation was a medical treatment for an infected wound.
About one in 13 survivors of the Civil War came home with one or more missing limbs, according to the US Battlefield Trust.
During the Civil War, from 1861 to 1865, the germ theory was in its stages of development and only gradually began to receive recognition. Formal medical training for physicians is also at an early stage. An antiseptic is simply defined as a tonic used to prevent "death of the flesh". Iodine and bromine are sometimes used to treat infections, according to the National Civil War Museum, although the reason for their effectiveness is unknown.
Other conventional drugs available at that time include quinine for the treatment of malaria and morphine and chloroform to block pain.
Confederate military field hospitals, however, do not have reliable access to these drugs because of the blockade – the Union's naval force has been closely following the main ports of the South to prevent trade in the Confederate.
Seeking alternatives, the Confederation commissioned Francis Porter, a botanist and surgeon from South Carolina, to compose a book on medicinal plants from the southern states, including herbal medicines used by native Americans and enslaved Africans. Southern Resources and Forests Resources, published in 1863, was a major collection of applications for various plants, including a description of 37 species for the treatment of gangrene and other infections. Samuel Moore, the general confederate surgeon, has drawn from Porcher's work to produce a document called "Standard Table for the Supply of Local Medicines for on-site Service and Patients in General Hospitals."
For the present study, the researchers focused on three types of Porcher plants cited for antiseptic application that grow in Lullwater Preserve in the Emory campus. They include two common trees – white oak (Quercus alba) and poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) – like a thorny, tree bush known as the dwarf (Aralia spinosa).
<div data-thumb = "https://3c1703fe8d.site.internapcdn.net/newman/csz/news/tmb2019/2-civilwarplan.jpg" data-src = "https: //3c1703fe8d.site.internapcdn. "Our research may one day take advantage of modern wound care if we can determine which compounds are responsible for the antimicrobial activity, "says Emory researcher Mika Dweweiler, shown with the bush handle, known as the crusher of the devil (Aralia spinosa). Author: Stephen Nowland, Emory University ">
Samples of these three plants were collected from specimens of the campus, based on Porcher's specifications. The extracts are taken from a white oak bark and peeled; leaves of poplar tulips, inner root bark and branch bark; and the leaves of the devil. The extracts were then tested on three types of multi-resistant bacteria that are commonly found in wound infections.
Acetinobacter baumannii– better known as "Iraqabter" because of its relationship with the wounded combat troops returning from the war in Iraq – shows great resistance to most first-line antibiotics. "This appears to be a major threat to soldiers recovering from a wound and to hospitals as a whole," says Quave.
Stafilococcus aureus is considered to be the most dangerous of many common staphylococcal bacteria and can spread from skin infections or medical devices through the bloodstream and infect remote organs. Klebsiella pneumoniae is another leading cause of hospital infection and can lead to life-threatening cases of pneumonia and septic shock.
Laboratory tests have shown that white oak and tulip poplars inhibit the growth of S. aureus, while white oak extracts also inhibited the growth of A. baumannii and K. pneumoniaeExtracts from both plants are also inhibited S. aureus from the formation of biofilms that can act as a shield against antibiotics.
Devil crusher extracts inhibit biofilm formation and quorum sensation S. aureusQuorum sensitivity is a signaling system that staphylococcus bacteria use to produce toxins and increase virulence. Blocking this system essentially "disarms" the bacteria.
Traditional herbal remedies are often rejected if they do not actively attack and kill pathogens, Quave notes.
"Plants have a great wealth of chemical diversity, which is another reason to protect the natural environment," says Dettweiler. He plans to go to a graduate school with a focus on exploring plants for medical or agricultural purposes. "I am interested in plants because, although they do not move from one place to another, they are extremely powerful and important."
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drawn up on 22 May 2019
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