Can Tea Tree Oil Body Wash Prevent MRSA?

tea tree oil, MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, antibiotic resistant, drug resistant, infectionsA study is investigating whether tea tree oil body wash can prevent the drug-resistant super bug MRSA in critically ill hospitalized adults.

MRSA, which is short for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a growing problem. MRSA is untreatable with most antibiotics and can cause potentially deadly complications. Hospitals and nursing homes are the prime breeding grounds for the disease.

In some prior studies, washing your skin with tea tree oil has been shown to be effective in removing MRSA. Therefore, researchers are currently evaluating the effect of daily washing with a 5 percent tea tree oil preparation on new MRSA infections among ICU patients.

The trial started in 2007, and should be complete in 2010.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is indeed a serious problem, and one that is getting progressively worse. It actually exacts a greater death toll than “modern plagues” like AIDS.

According to a study published in October, 2007 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), there were close to 100,000 cases of invasive MRSA infections in the United States in 2005, which lead to more than 18,600 deaths, compared to HIV/AIDS, which killed 17,000 people that same year.

In order to effectively combat this epidemic problem, it’s important to realize that antibiotic-resistant disease is a man-made problem, caused by overuse of antibiotics. It is not merely a lack of hygiene or proper disinfection techniques that have brought these super bugs to the point of being impervious to nearly all medications we have at our disposal.

With many conventional antibiotics being rendered useless against these super bugs, more and more research is being conducted to evaluate natural solutions, and effective alternatives have already been discovered.

For example, the Irish wildflower known as inula helenium has been found to kill MRSA. According to researchers at Cork Institute of Technology, when tested against a group of 300 staphylococci, including MRSA, an extract from the plant was found to be 100 percent effective against the superbug! The herb pulsatilla vulgaris was also deemed effective.

Now, as far as tea tree oil is concerned, some prior studies have found tea tree oil effective in removing MRSA from your skin, but others found it to have minimal effect, according to one 2005 review of randomized controlled trials, published in the British Journal of Community Nursing. So, at least until this last study is completed in 2010, the jury is still out on the use of tea tree oil for this purpose. However, there are other commonsense approaches that you can easily implement -- which are known to be effective -- to protect yourself from this kind of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Interestingly, when I was in India last year I met the chairman of the board of Organic India, Christopher Dean, and he is the Australian who pioneered the use of tea tree oil.

Commonsense, All-Natural Approaches to Protect Yourself From MRSA

First and foremost, everyone needs to take the issue of antibiotics seriously. This is of course an issue that must be addressed on a large scale, both within modern medicine and agriculture, but you also need to evaluate your own use of antibiotics, and avoid taking them – or giving them to your children -- unless absolutely necessary. Unless everyone starts to pay attention to when and how they use these drugs, the problem will never be solved

Aside from that, here are a few other sound methods that can greatly hinder the spread of infectious disease, including MRSA.

    Wash your hands -- The most important of which is to adhere to proper hygiene, such as washing your hands with soap and water. Handwashing, which is one of the oldest and most powerful antibacterial treatments, may be the key to preventing MRSA (staph infections).

According to a Johns Hopkins study, the best way for patients to avoid such infections is for doctors and nurses to simply wash their hands before touching a patient. This is the most common violation in hospitals. According to findings by The Times, in the worst cases, as few as 40 percent of staff members comply with hand-washing standards, with doctors being the worst offenders.

But even the best hospitals typically boast no better than 90 percent compliance — which means one out of 10 practitioners may have contaminated hands.

Guidelines to proper handwashing include:

  • Wash your hands for 10 to 15 seconds with warm water
  • Use plain soap
  • Clean all the nooks and crannies of your hands, including under fingernails
  • Rinse thoroughly under running water
  • Use a paper towel to open the door as a protection from germs that harbor on handles

Remember to AVOID using antibacterial soaps. These soaps are completely unnecessary and could easily do more harm than good. As a matter of fact, the antibacterial compounds found in most of these soaps are another likely contributing factor to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

    Invest in copper -- Making door handles, taps and light switches from copper could also help defeat antibiotic-resistant superbugs, according to scientists. Researchers have discovered that copper fittings rapidly kill bugs in hospital wards, succeeding where other infection control measures fail.

Lab tests show that the metal can effectively kill off both the deadly MRSA and C difficile superbugs. It also kills other dangerous germs, including the flu virus and the E coli food poisoning bug.

In tests sponsored by the Copper Development Association Inc. (the Latin-American arm of the International Copper Association), a grouping of 100 million MSRA bacterium atrophied and died in a mere 90 minutes when placed on a copper surface at room temperature. The same number of MSRA bacteria on steel and aluminum surfaces actually increased over time.

It is likely that by installing copper faucets, light switches, toilet seats and push plates in germ infested areas, hospitals and nursing homes could quite literally save thousands of lives each year.

You could also consider taking the same measures in your own home, especially if you care for someone with chronically poor immune function.

    Use natural disinfectants – As with antibacterial hand soaps, antibacterial house cleaners are also best avoided. A natural all-purpose cleanser that works great for kitchen counters, cutting boards and bathrooms is 3% hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. Just put each liquid into a separate spray bottle, then spray the surface with one, followed by the other.

    Eat garlic – Researchers have found that allicin, the active compound in garlic, is an effective, natural “antibiotic” that can eradicate even antibiotic-resistant bugs like MRSA. An added boon is that the bacteria appear incapable of developing a resistance to the compound.

However, it is important to note that the garlic must be fresh. The active ingredient is destroyed within one hour of smashing the garlic. Garlic pills are virtually worthless and should not be used.

Instead, compress the garlic with a spoon prior to swallowing it if you are not going to juice it. If you swallow the clove intact you will not convert the allicin to its active ingredient.