Manuka honey inhibits cell division in methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus

J Antimicrob Chemother. 2011 Nov;66(11):2536-42. doi: 10.1093/jac/dkr340. Epub 2011 Sep 7.


Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of manuka honey, artificial honey and an antibacterial component (methylglyoxal) on cell division in methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Methods: Viability of epidemic MRSA-15 NCTC 13142 incubated with manuka honey, artificial honey and methylglyoxal was determined, and structural effects monitored by electron microscopy. Activity of murein hydrolase (a peptidoglycan-degrading enzyme implicated in cell separation, encoded by atl) was estimated by cell wall hydrolysis and zymography; expression of atl was quantified by real-time PCR.

Results: Growth of MRSA was inhibited by 5%, 10% and 20% (w/v) manuka honey and 10% (w/v) artificial honey containing methylglyoxal, but not 10% (w/v) artificial honey. Statistically significantly increased numbers of cells containing septa and increased cell diameter (P < 0.001 and P < 0.001, respectively) were found in MRSA exposed to 5%, 10% or 20% (w/v) manuka honey, but not 10% (w/v) artificial honey with and without methylglyoxal. Intracellular activity of murein hydrolase was elevated in MRSA grown in 10% (w/v) artificial honey and at undetectable levels in MRSA treated with 10% (w/v) manuka honey. Increased atl expression was found in MRSA treated with 10% (w/v) manuka honey and 10% artificial honey containing methylglyoxal.

Conclusions: Enlarged cells containing septa were observed in MRSA exposed to inhibitory concentrations of manuka honey, suggesting that cell division was interrupted. These changes were not caused by either the sugars or methylglyoxal in honey and indicate the presence of additional antibacterial components in manuka honey.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Honey*
  • Leptospermum
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / cytology
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / growth & development*
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / metabolism
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • N-Acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine Amidase / metabolism*
  • Plant Preparations / pharmacology*
  • Pyruvaldehyde / pharmacology
  • Staphylococcal Infections / drug therapy


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Plant Preparations
  • Pyruvaldehyde
  • N-Acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine Amidase