Turmeric Can Help Control Hospital Infections
We all shed microbes from our bodies. They spread in the environment by air and by handling of contaminated surfaces. Hospitals and clinics use many precautions to keep treatment areas sterile and control the spread of microbes. Unfortunately, they are also places of increased risk of infection—even from normal skin bacteria, such as Staphylococcus epidermidis. (v.34)
Hospitals and Increased Risk of Infection
There are multiple reasons that being in a hospital or clinic can increase the risk of infection. These include: (v.19-20)
- Healthcare settings bring infected people with people at greater risk of infection due to illness or trauma.
- Weakened immune systems due to disease, age, poor diet, or lifestyle.
- Impaired immune defenses and inflammation linked to medical treatment (e.g., chemotherapy and invasive medical devices such as catheters, IV's, and breathing tubes).
- Surgery and wounds that breach skin and other barriers that normally protect against infection.
- Overuse of antibiotics that promotes strains of microbes resistant to treatment.
Biofilms Protect Microbes
Some bacteria produce a slimy, protective biofilm, making it difficult for the immune system and antibiotics to fight. Biofilms also allow bacteria to stick to the plastic used in medical devices (such as shunts, prosthetic joints, and catheters). (v.34)
Research suggests the antimicrobial effects of turmeric and its compounds can help:
- Inhibit biofilm formation. Lab studies show curcumin inhibits the formation of biofilm slime by Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli bacteria. (v.35)
- Reduces biofilm mass and kills bacteria. In already established biofilms, curcumin dramatically reduces the size of S. aureus biofilm masses—but without killing the bacteria. When combined with light therapy, nano-encapsulated curcumin killed 71-87% of Staphylococcus epidermidis in biofilms. On E. coli biofilms, curcumin killed a significant percentage of the bacteria, but had little effect on the size of the biofilm. (v.35-36)
- Biomedical adhesive film and wound dressings. Turmeric and curcumin add antimicrobial protection to films used to coat prosthetic devices and bandages. (v.37)
- Accelerates wound healing. Wound dressings infused with turmeric help wounds heal faster, which reduces the risk of infection. (v.26)
- Prevents wound infection. Antibacterial foam containing curcumin inhibited E. coli when used with phototherapy. In a clinical study involving HIV patients, soap made with turmeric helped inhibit bacterial and fungal infections. (v.20, 25-26, 38)
Curcumin Protects the Brain from Dangerous Septic Shock and Sepsis
Many types of infections can worsen and turn into inflammatory sepsis and septic shock if the infection spreads through the body. Sepsis and septic shock can cause multiple organ damage, and are the leading cause of death in intensive care patients (other than heart conditions). The risk of death is even higher in these critical patients if sepsis breeches the protective brain barrier and infects the brain. Once it does, sepsis creates inflammation that causes potentially deadly brain damage. (v.39)
Pretreatment with the turmeric compound curcumin could help protect the brain. In one study, as little as 2 days of curcumin before infection protected animals. (v.39)
Curcumin improved survival by preserving the brain barrier membrane's protective function. One of the ways curcumin might do this is by limiting the production of adhesive proteins. This prevents inflammatory platelets and immune system cells from damaging the brain barrier. (v.39)
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