Meschwitz featured on internationally syndicated program, ‘The Academic Minute’

Susan Meschwitz, assistant professor of chemistry, will talk about her research into the medicinal properties of honey when "The Academic Minute" airs Sept. 12 on WAMC Northeast Public radio, a program that is syndicated to more than 70 stations throughout North America.

Meschwitz, lead author of a study presented at the 247th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, says the unique property of honey lies in its ability to fight infection on multiple levels, making it more difficult for bacteria to develop resistance.

“The therapeutic properties of honey have been known since ancient times when honey was used as a topical wound treatment and cure for many ailments,” Meschwitz says. “However, with the introduction of antibiotics, honey, along many old remedies, quickly fell out of favor.

Now with the incidence of antibiotic resistance on the rise and the development of new antibiotics not keeping pace, researchers are taking a closer look at honey and its medicinal properties, Meschwitz says.

Honey uses a combination of weapons, including hydrogen peroxide, acidity, osmotic effect, high sugar concentration and polyphenols — all of which actively kill bacterial cells, she explained. The osmotic effect, which is the result of the high sugar concentration in honey, draws water from the bacterial cells, dehydrating and killing them.

“Honey may also disrupt quorum sensing, which weakens bacterial virulence, rendering the bacteria more susceptible to conventional antibiotics,” Meschwitz says. Quorum sensing is the way bacteria communicate with one another, and may be involved in the formation of biofilms. In certain bacteria, this communication system also controls the release of toxins, which affects the bacteria’s pathogenicity, or their ability to cause disease.”

The Academic Minute airs each weekday at 7:34 a.m. and 3:56 p.m. Hosted by Lynn Pasquerella, president of Mount Holyoke College, the segment features a different professor each day, drawing experts from top research institutions.