Antimicrobial clay
A clay deposit that was formed in prehistoric times seems to have therapeutic effects on some drug-resistant bacteriaUniversity of British Columbia

A clay deposit found in Kisameet Bay in Canada's western province of British Columbia can be used to treat drug-resistant bacterial infections, a new study reveals. The mineral clay was found effective in killing as many as six strains of bacteria during clinical test, researchers at the University of British Columbia said.

The clay deposit is situated in a shallow five-acre granite basin on Heiltsuk First Nation's traditional territory, about 400km north of Canadian capital Vancouver. The 400,000-tonne deposit was formed towards the end of the last Ice Age, approximately 10,000 years ago.

According to researchers, the therapeutic properties of the clay have been known to the region's indigenous people for centuries. They use it to treat such ailments as ulcerative colitis, duodenal ulcer, arthritis, neuritis, phlebitis, skin irritation, and burns.

Researchers said that the clay has been found to be especially effective against the so-called Eskape pathogens, a set of six variants of bacteria that cause the majority of hospital infections in the United States. These are multi-drug and antibiotic-resistant bacteria that make them untreatable.

"Infections caused by ESKAPE bacteria are essentially untreatable and contribute to increasing mortality in hospitals," said the university's microbiologist Julian Davies. "After 50 years of over-using and misusing antibiotics, ancient medicinal and other natural mineral-based agents may provide new weapons in the battle against multidrug-resistant pathogens."

Researchers hope that the discovery will lead to the development of a "novel and safe" antimicrobial to treat infections and other health issues caused by drug-resistant pathogens. They recommend the "rare mineral clay be studied as a clinical treatment for serious infections caused by Eskape strains of bacteria".

"No toxic side effects have been reported in the human use of the clay, and the next stage in clinical evaluation would involve detailed clinical studies and toxicity testing," the researchers added.