The Use of Tea Tree Oil as an Alternative to Mupirocin for Those Suffering

10 October 2016

Abstract In vitro studies show that tea tree oil can be used as a topical methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) eradication regimen in a laboratory setting. This report has been researched using a wide range of journals and internet sources to find out whether tea tree oil can be used as an alternative to Mupirocin for those suffering from MRSA colonisation. The journals that were searched contained useful information about tea tree oil as an antiseptic, however, many of the studies, like Hada et al (2001), looked at inhibiting the MRSA colonization rather than eradicating it.

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There were three studies found to be useful in this review. The first was Dryden et al (2004) which found Mupirocin to be more effective than tea tree oil by only a small percentage. The second study by Caelli et al (2001), which had considerably fewer participants, showed a large but non-significant improvement in eradicating MRSA compared to traditional treatment. Finally, the third study by May et al (2000) was performed with two chemically different tea tree oils and found a rapid killing time (less than 60 min) was achieved with both tea tree oils with most isolates, but MRSA was killed more slowly than other organisms.

This study does not include murpirocin, however, it shows the success rates of tea tree oil as an antiseptic. All of these studies are cited in a review found by Flaxman (2007) which compares two randomized controlled trials which was undertaken to show the effects of tea tree oil and mupirocin in eradicating MRSA. There are currently an insufficient amount of studies to support the viability of tea tree oil in clinical practice against the eradication of MRSA. Introduction Antibiotics have saved millions of lives by killing harmful bacteria that cause infections.

But the overuse of antibiotics has lead to the development of strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a type of bacteria that doesn’t respond to treatment with many common antibiotics. Tea tree oil has been suggested as a possible alternative to dealing with certain forms of MRSA infection, but questions about its effectiveness remain (webmd. boots. com). Mupirocin is an antibiotic that is used topically on the skin for the treatment of bacterial disease of the skin caused by Staphylococcus aureus.

Unlike most other antibiotics which act on either bacterial DNA or the walls of bacteria, mupirocin blocks the bacteriums ability to make proteins. Without the ability to make proteins, the bacteria die (medicinenet. com). Tea tree oil is obtained by steam distillation of the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, a tree native to Australia, and is reported to have antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties (Dryden, 2004). Currently, tea tree oil is used in cosmetics and healthcare products and has recently re-emerged as an effective antiseptic.

Tea tree oil appears to exert its antibacterial action by disrupting the integrity of cell membranes of the bacteria, causing ‘leaks’ in the cell walls to occur. Several studies show that tea tree oil is successful in killing MRSA in relatively short periods of time in concentrations 5% or less (Carson et al, 1995; May et al, 2000; Banes-Marshall et al, 2001 cited in Flaxman, 2007). A limited number of published controlled clinical trials support this latter use (May, 1999). Discussion

A study by Dryden et al (2004) was a randomized controlled trial that dealt with tea tree oil compared to the usual treatment of MRSA. Dryden et al’s study took place a district general hospital and involved 236 people, whereas a study by Caelli et al (2000), which was also a randomized controlled trial, involved only 30 people and took place in an acute teaching referral hospital. There is little information on this hospital therefore it cannot be compared to other hospital settings (Dryden, Caelli cited in Flaxman, 2007).

It was found that those who bathed using preparations containing tea tree oil never caught MRSA, whilst those who did not use them almost always did. According to Dryden et al (2004) tea tree creams and soaps appeared to be safe and well tolerated. Dryden also found that there was no significant difference between the two regimens when all patients and all colonized sites were taken into consideration with a success rate of 41% for tea tree oil and 49% for mupirocin.

However, mupirocin was significantly more effective than tea tree cream in the nostrils (Dryden, 2004). Unlike Dryden et al, the study by Caelli et al (2000) gave age ranges for comparison in their two groups. Fifty-eight years compared to seventy-four years may have influenced the results as younger patients usually only suffer with nasal carriage and older patients tend to suffer with chronic wounds colonized with MRSA (Flaxman, 2007).

However, Dryden treated lesions that Caelli et al did not which may also have affected the results in that lesions are often colonized if a patient has carriage (Flaxman, 2007). A study by May et al (2000) was an in-vitro study looking at time-kill studies of tea free oil on clinical isolates including MRSA. It was performed with two chemically different tea tree oils and found a rapid killing time (less than 60 min) was achieved with both tea tree oils with most isolates, but MRSA was killed more slowly than other organisms.

The results of the time–kill studies show the clone of tea tree oil, known as clone 88, to be more or equally effective compared with the standard oil (May et al, 2000). Conclusion Even though mupirocin shows a slightly higher success rate than tea tree oil in some studies shown, tea tree oil is a viable alternative to antibiotic treatment for MRSA skin infections. This finding is especially important as bacterial resistance continues to increase and infections become harder to treat. However, evidence seems to favour mupirocin as first line treatments for MRSA. There are enough studies to warrant further investigation to whether tea tree oil products have a role in treating MRSA. Tea tree oil should also be seen as a second line treatment for nasal colonisation based on the results of the Dryden et al study.

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