Naturally occurring clay from British Columbia may provide an answer to the rising threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
In a recent article in the American Society for Microbiology's mBio journal, University of British Columbia microbiologist Julian Davies and colleague Shekooh Behroozian say that the clay from Kisameet Bay - long used by the Heiltsuk First Nation for healing - showed the ability to kill multi-drug resistant pathogens.
RELATED: Antibiotic-resistant microbes on the rise
"After 50 years of over-using and misusing antibiotics, ancient medicinals and other natural mineral-based agents may provide new weapons in the battle against multidrug-resistant pathogens," Davies said in a press release.
The clay deposit is situated on Heiltsuk First Nation's traditional territory, about 250 miles north of Vancouver, in a shallow five-acre granite basin. The deposit was formed near the end of the last Ice Age, approximately 10,000 years ago. Native people have used the clay in treating ailments ranging from burns to arthritis.
The scientists suspended the clay in water, where it killed 16 different types of bacteria obtained from Vancouver General Hospital, St. Paul's Hospital, and the University of British Columbia's wastewater treatment pilot plant.
RELATED: New Resistant Superbug Spreading The scientists learned about the clay several years ago when they were approached by a company that wanted to use it as an ingredient in cosmetics and other products.
They wanted microbial testing on clay, so I was a bit skeptical at first," Davies told the Vancouver Sun. "Well, there are all sorts of claims out there, all kinds of folklore medicine and witchcraft."
The company interested in marketing the clay partly funded the research, according to the Sun article.
A separate set of researchers at Arizona State University recently published an article in Scientic Reports about the antibacterial properties of clay from Oregon. They believer that minerals in the clay explain its antibacterial properties.