Brazilian peppertree packs power to knock out antibiotic-resistant bacteria

By Carol Clark | eScienceCommons | Feb. 10, 2017

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The weed whisperer: Ethnobotanist Cassandra Quave uncovered a medicinal mechanism of berries from the Brazilian peppertree. The plant is a weedy invasive species in Florida, but valued by traditional healers in the Amazon as a treatment for infections. (Photos by Ann Bordon, Emory Photo/Video)

The red berries of the Brazilian peppertree – a weedy, invasive species common in Florida – contain an extract with the power to disarm dangerous antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria, scientists at Emory University have discovered.

The journal Scientific Reports published the finding, made in the lab of Cassandra Quave, an assistant professor in Emory’s Center for the Study of Human Health and in the School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology.

“Traditional healers in the Amazon have used the Brazilian peppertree for hundreds of years to treat infections of the skin and soft tissues,” Quave says. “We pulled apart the chemical ingredients of the berries and systematically tested them against disease-causing bacteria to uncover a medicinal mechanism of this plant.”

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