New accredited test to reveal the antibacterial potential of honey
A research team from the Institute of Molecular Biology SAS (ÚMB SAV, v. v. i.) developed and optimized the method for determining the antibacterial activity of honey, and in cooperation with the State Veterinary and Food Institute in Bratislava, this unique test was accredited by the Slovak National Accreditation Service. Among the Member States of the European Union, Slovakia is the first country to offer an accredited method for determining the antibacterial activity of honey as a commercial service not only for bee-keepers but also for consumers.
Honey is a functional product, and scientific work and clinical studies confirm that it has long been a natural alternative product, but it is also respected in medical practice.
“Any honey - nectar or honeydew - has significant biological properties. The most studied is its antibacterial activity. So far, the resistance of bacteria to honey has not been described, which is extremely attractive for its therapeutic use in clinical practice,” explains the head of the Laboratory of Apidology and Apitherapy, which developed the method, Juraj Majtán from ÚMB SAV, v. v. i., and, at the same time, he adds that the antibacterial activity of honey, unlike antibiotics, has a multifactorial character, which is based on the active action of several molecules and mechanisms.
The new method determines the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of honey. Scientists use Staphylococcus aureus as a model bacterium. The lower the MIC value of the test sample, the higher its activity against bacteria.
“By determining the minimum inhibitory concentration of honey, we obtain important information about the strength of its antibacterial effect. The MIC value expresses the lowest possible percentage concentration of honey at which the growth of bacteria is suppressed or stopped,” explains the microbiologist, adding that honey with excellent antibacterial activity is awarded a quality mark.
The development and optimization of the test were preceded by an analysis of hundreds of honey samples of various botanical and geographical origins and intensive more than 10 years of research into the biological effects of honey. “This brings us to a higher level of knowledge about what honey means to us and what its health-beneficial effects are. The aim is to give honey added value and identify types of honey with the highest antibacterial activity,” says Juraj Majtán from ÚMB SAV, v. v. i.
The analysis of the determination of the antibacterial activity of honey is performed by the State Veterinary and Food Institute in Bratislava, which also issues test reports. In addition to information on the functionality of honey, the new method can also partially detect unscrupulous handling, which can occur, for example, by improper heating or storage.
The worldwide production of authentic natural honey has a declining trend for various environmental reasons. Excessive use of pesticides and insecticides, or a focus on monocultures, are among the main factors responsible for the global decline of pollinators. Since 2017, we have also commemorated the importance of protecting bees and all other pollinators as part of World Bee Day, which falls on May 20.