A naturally occurring compound in garlic appears 100 times more effective than two popular antibiotics at fighting Campylobacter bacterium, a common cause of food poisoning.
But don't rush out and begin eating massive amounts of garlic in hopes of preventing foodborne illness, say researchers at Washington State University in Pullman.
The work is preliminary and still far from practical application, according to a news release.
Xiaonan Lu, a post-doctoral researcher and lead author of a recently published research paper, headed a team that looked at diallyl sulfide and its ability to kill the Campylobacter bacterium when it's protected by a slimy biofilm.
The biofilm makes it 1,000 times more resistant to antibiotics than if it were floating free.
The researchers found the garlic compond readily pentrated the film and killed the bacterial cells.
As a result, it was 100 times more effective than the antiobiotics erythromycin and ciprofloxacin and often worked in a fraction of the time.
Lu and colleagues also authored two articles last year that found diallyl sulfide and other related compounds were effective against Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli O157:H7—two other foodborne pathogens.
Michael Konkel, a co-author who has been studying Campylobacter for 25 years, said he envisioned the garlic compound possibly being used to clean industrial food-processing equipment.
Another use could possibly be as a preservative in packaged foods.