A sweet new study found maple syrup could make antibiotics more effective against bacteria.

The findings suggest combining maple syrup extract with common antibiotics could help increase infectious bacteria's susceptibly and reduce overall antibiotic use, McGill University reported. Overuse of antibiotics is fueling the global problem of drug resistance, and this could be a new way to control its progression.

The maple syrup extract consists mostly of phenolic compounds, and was tested in E. coli and Proteus mirabilis bacteria. The extract had only a minimal effect on these bacteria on its own, but proved to work hand-in-hand with antibiotics to combat the source of infection. The extract was observed to work synergistically with antibiotics to destroy resistant bacterial communities, called biofilms, which are common in hard-to-treat cases such as catheter-spread urinary tract infections.

"We would have to do in vivo tests, and eventually clinical trials, before we can say what the effect would be in humans," Tufenkji says. "But the findings suggest a potentially simple and effective approach for reducing antibiotic usage. I could see maple syrup extract being incorporated eventually, for example, into the capsules of antibiotics."

The scientists also found the extract has an influence on bacterial gene expression, and repress a number of genes linked to antibiotic resistance. The maple syrup used in the study was harvested from North American maple trees and purchased at local markets in Montreal. The syrup was frozen until the beginning of each experiment and reduced to a phenolic-rich extract.

The findings were published in a recent edition of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.