Antibacterial and Antivirulence Activity of Manuka Honey against Genetically Diverse Staphylococcus pseudintermedius Strains

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2020 Oct 1;86(20):e01768-20. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01768-20. Print 2020 Oct 1.


Staphylococcus pseudintermedius causes opportunistic infections in dogs. It also has significant zoonotic potential, with the emergence of multidrug resistance leading to difficulty treating both animal and human infections. Manuka honey has previously been reported to inhibit many bacterial pathogens, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and is successfully utilized in both clinical and veterinary practice. Here, we evaluated the ability of manuka honey to inhibit strains of S. pseudintermedius grown alone and in combination with antibiotics, as well as its capacity to modulate virulence within multiple S. pseudintermedius isolates. All 18 of the genetically diverse S. pseudintermedius strains sequenced and tested were inhibited by ≤12% (wt/vol) medical-grade manuka honey, although tolerance to five clinically relevant antibiotics was observed. The susceptibility of the isolates to four of these antibiotics was significantly increased (P ≤ 0.05) when combined with sublethal concentrations of honey, although sensitivity to oxacillin was decreased. Virulence factor (DNase, protease, and hemolysin) activity was also significantly reduced (P ≤ 0.05) in over half of isolates when cultured with sublethal concentrations of honey (13, 9, and 10 isolates, respectively). These findings highlight the potential for manuka honey to be utilized against S. pseudintermedius infections.IMPORTANCEStaphylococcus pseudintermedius is an important member of the skin microbial community in animals and can cause opportunistic infections in both pets and their owners. The high incidence of antimicrobial resistance in S. pseudintermedius highlights that this opportunistic zoonotic pathogen can cause infections which require prolonged and intensive treatment to resolve. Manuka honey has proven efficacy against many bacterial pathogens and is an accepted topical treatment for infections in both veterinary and clinical practice, and so it is a particularly appropriate antimicrobial for use with zoonotic pathogens such as S. pseudintermedius Here, we demonstrate that not only is manuka honey highly potent against novel multidrug-resistant S. pseudintermedius isolates, it also acts synergistically with clinically relevant antibiotics. In addition, manuka honey modulates S. pseudintermedius virulence activity, even at subinhibitory concentrations. In a clinical setting, these attributes may assist in controlling infection, allowing a more rapid resolution and reducing antibiotic use.

Keywords: aggregation; antibiotic resistance; hemolysis; manuka honey; proteolysis; synergy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / analysis
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Honey / analysis*
  • Staphylococcus / drug effects*
  • Staphylococcus / genetics
  • Staphylococcus / pathogenicity
  • Staphylococcus / physiology
  • Virulence / drug effects


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents

Supplementary concepts

  • Staphylococcus pseudintermedius