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Q
A Staph Infection That Won't Heal?

I have had a staph infection in my nose for a long time. I’ve tried several antibiotics and topical ointments that haven’t helped.  What can I do?

A
Answer (Published 1/26/2007)

The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus is often found on the skin and in the noses of healthy people, and may or may not cause problems. It has been estimated that at any given time 25 to 30 percent of the population has staph bacteria in the nose, but only some of those infected have symptoms. These bacteria can cause anything from minor skin infections (pimples) and boils to such potentially life-threatening diseases as pneumonia, meningitis, and toxic shock syndrome. Some 500,000 hospital patients in the United States develop staph infections every year. Disturbingly, these infections seem to be increasingly resistant to the penicillin-related antibiotics used to treat them. The worst infections result from methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, and options for treating them are dwindling.

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Standard treatment for staph infections of the nose is regular application of an antibiotic ointment (over-the-counter or prescription), but some of these infections can be stubborn, taking up to a year to subside. If this approach hasn't helped, you might try using medicinal honey instead. Researchers at the University of Waikato in New Zealand have found that honey's antibacterial activity can even stop the growth of MRSA bacteria. They've also shown that honey has no adverse effects on healthy tissue and can be safely inserted into cavities and sinuses to clear infection. Don't try this with ordinary supermarket honey. Two medicinal honeys available commercially include manuka honey from New Zealand and Medihoney from Australia.

To help your body address the infection, I also suggest that you take astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), the root of a plant native to northern China and Inner Mongolia known for its immune-boosting effects. You can buy astragalus preparations in most health food stores. The dose is two capsules or tablets twice a day unless the product directs otherwise. You can continue treatment with astragalus indefinitely.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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