Maple syrup recently emerged as more than just a sweet topping for your breakfast. New research has found that the sticky sap may also help boost the effectiveness of your antibiotics.

In a new study, researchers found that super-concentrated extract of maple syrup can weaken certain disease-causing bacteria, thereby making antibiotics more effective at killing them. The researchers — led by Nathalie Tufenkji, an associate professor in the department of engineering at Canada's McGill University — hope that this finding may help doctors utilize maple syrup extract so that they can cut back on the amount of antibiotics given to patients. This may help address the growing global issue of antibiotic resistance.

For the study, researchers purchased off-the-shelf maple syrup from a market in Montreal. They created an extract by strictly isolating phenolic compounds found in the syrup. They then added the extract to a number of infection-causing bacteria, such as E. coli and proteus mirabilis (a common cause of urinary tract infections and other illnesses).  Researchers found that even on its own, the maple syrup extract slowed down the spread of the bacteria. But it was even more effective at killing the bacteria when it was used in combination with antibiotics.

"Bacteria have this skin around them that protects them; it's called a membrane. What's interesting is that when you expose bacteria to this maple syrup extract it actually makes the skin more permeable to the antibiotic," said Tufenkji. "The antibiotic can kind of permeate through the skin."

This research is still in its preliminary stages. The effectiveness of maple syrup extract would first have to be tested outside of a petri dish to determine if it might actually work the same in the human body as it does in the lab.

But one possible idea for the future is that a concentrate of the maple syrup extract could be added directly to antibiotic formulas, so that manufacturers could use less of the medicine to fight the disease. This might help to slow the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

And that would be sweet for everyone.

The study was published in the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

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