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Cymraeg

Is a cup of tea really the answer to everything - even anthrax?

12 March 2008

A cup of black tea could be the next line of defence in the threat of bio-terrorism according to new international research.

A new study by an international team of researchers from Cardiff University and University of Maryland has revealed how the humble cup of tea could well be an antidote to Bacillus anthracis -more commonly know as anthrax.

As a nation, Brits currently drink 165 million cups of tea, and the healing benefits of the nation’s favourite beverage have long been acknowledged.

But now the team of scientists led by Professor Les Baillie from Welsh School of Pharmacy at Cardiff University and Doctor Theresa Gallagher, Biodefense Institute, part of the Medical Biotechnology Centre of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute in Baltimore, has found that the widely-available English Breakfast tea has the potential to inhibit the activity of anthrax, as long as it is black tea.

Anthrax - a potentially fatal human disease - is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. A very serious and rapidly progressing form of the disease occurs when bacterial spores are inhaled making anthrax a potent threat when used as a biological warfare agent.

Published in the March issue of the Society for Applied Microbiology's journal Microbiologist, Professor Baillie said: "Our research sought to determine if English Breakfast tea was more effective than a commercially available American medium roast coffee at killing anthrax. We found that special components in tea such as polyphenols have the ability to inhibit the activity of anthrax quite considerably."

The study provides further evidence of the wide range of beneficial physiological and pharmalogical effects of this common household item.

The research also shows that the addition of whole milk to a standard cup of tea completely inhibited its antibacterial activity against anthrax.

Professor Baillie continued: "I would suggest that in the event that we are faced with a potential bio-terror attack, individuals may want to forgo their dash of milk at least until the situation is under control.

"What’s more, given the ability of tea to bring solace and steady the mind, and to inactivate Bacillus anthracis and its toxin, perhaps the Boston Tea Party was not such a good idea after all."

Professor Les Baillie is Professor of Microbiology at Welsh School of Pharmacy. He is also Associate Professor, Director Biodefense Initiative, Medical Biotechnology Centre, University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute in Baltimore, and Adjunct Professor in the Microbiology and Immunology Department, University of Maryland at Baltimore.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

Cardiff University
Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities. It is also ranked as one of the world’s top 100 universities by the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES).
2008 marks the 125th anniversary of Cardiff University having been founded by Royal Charter in 1883. Today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Cardiff is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s leading research universities. Visit the University website at: http://www.cardiff.ac.uk

Welsh School of Pharmacy
The Welsh School of Pharmacy, which was founded in 1919, is the only school of pharmacy in Wales. In independent government assessments of university teaching and research, the School was awarded the double accolade of the top rating, "Excellent" for teaching, and the top rating "Grade 5" for research.
The School’s collaboration with institutions and pharmaceutical companies in Europe and the USA emphasises the School’s international reputation for research. The School has four research groups looking at drug delivery; drug usage; design and synthesis of drugs; and molecular and cellular basis of drug action.
The School also oversees the activities of the Welsh Centre for Postgraduate Pharmaceutical Education, which is concerned with continuing education for all of Wales’ 2,100 pharmacists.

Further Information:

For more information about the study contact:
Professor Les Baillie
Welsh School of Pharmacy, Cardiff University
T: 02920 875 535 E: bailliel@cf.ac.uk

For more media information and a copy of the study contact:
Lowri Jones, Public Relations and Communications
Cardiff University
T: 02920 870 995 E: joneslc3@cardiff.ac.uk