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Natural Antiseptics vs Medical Antiseptics

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Biology
Wordcount: 2937 words Published: 21st May 2018

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This extended experimental investigation was commenced to see how natural antiseptics compared to man-made medical antiseptics, on Serratia marcescens bacteria culture. The results showed that the natural product Manuka honey UMF 30+ worked better then the man-made antiseptic cream.



Bacteria are single celled microorganisms, that don't have a membrane-bound nucleus and other organelles such as mitochondria and chloroplasts. Bacteria cells have many properties. They consist mainly of; ribosomes, flagella, cell wall made of peptidoglycan, cytoplasm, cytoplasmic membrane, and nucleoid. Bacteria can either live independently or dependently requiring another living organism to keep it alive. There are two types of bacteria: - anaerobic (does not requiring oxygen for growth) and aerobic (requires oxygen for growth). Anaerobes use glycolysis for energy, while aerobes use cellular respiration. 'Oxygen can actually be rather toxic, and for a cell to be able to use molecular oxygen, it must be able to manufacture specific enzymes that detoxify oxygen waste products,'(1).

Bacteria spread by dividing. They can multiply at a rate of: - doubling ever 20min if the conditions are ideal. Most bacteria prefer an optimal temperature of about 37°C.

The temperature of the human body is around 37°C, and this is why bacteria usually thrive on the human body. Consequently it is important to have products that will contain and destroy unnecessary bacteria.



(1)http://microbiology.suite101.com/article.cfm/difference_between_aerobic_anaerobic_bacteria (Tami Port, 2009)




Serratia marcescens

Serratia marcescens is a pathogenic, anaerobic bacterium. Serratia Marcescens comes from the bacteria family enterobacteriaceae. The bacteria has a pH of 5-9, and can grow within temperatures of 5-40ï‚°c but its optimal temperature ranges between 30-35ï‚°c. Being anaerobic it uses glycolysis for its energy. Glycolysis in the cytoplasm rapidly breaks down glucose molecules into two pyruvate ions (pyruvic acid), which create two to four ATP molecules.

Serratia marcescens usually ranges between dark red to pale pink in colour, as it has a pigment called prodigiosin. It has a cell shape of bacillus, and the gram stain is negative. Negative meaning it has an additional outer membrane containing lipids.

Serratia spreads by direct contact. The bacteria is usually associated with; urinary tract infections, respiratory tract infections, meningitis and arthritis. Its natural habitat usually occurs in soil water, and intestines.

http://www.bacteriamuseum.org/cms/Pathogenic-Bacteria/pathogenic-bacteria.html (Dr. T. M. Wassenaar, 2009)

Heinemann Queensland science project, Biology a contextual approach text book, (Maggie spenceley, Barbra Weller, Margaret Mason, Katharine Fullerton, Chris Tsilemanis, Barbra Evans, Pauline Ladiges, John McKenzie, Phil Batterham, 2004)

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/228495-overview, (Basilio J Anía, 2009)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serratia_marcescens, Hejazi A, Falkiner FR (1997). "Serratia marcescens". J Med Microbiol



Tea tree oil


Tea tree oil was first used by indigenous people thousands of years ago. They used the tea tree leaves by crushing them and applying them to wounds and cuts. They also inhaled the oil for respiratory tract infections and to ease congestion.

Tea tree oil was discovered scientifically in 1923, by Arthur Penfold. The oil is obtained by the stem distillation of leaves of Melaleuca aternfolia, a native plant to Australia. Penfold tested the oil and discovered that its antiseptic properties were about 12 times stronger than carbolic acid, which was widely used.

During World War II tea tree oil was distributed to Australian soldiers in their first aid kits, as it was considered as a near perfect antiseptic. Throughout the war the oil was acclaimed for its insect repellent and anti-fungal properties.

Tea tree oil has been tested by many Australian researchers and scientists, and has been proven to work better than some commercially available antibiotics.

http://vitanetonline.com/forums/1/thread/441, (2005)


What it is effective against and how it works

Tea tree oil is a pure natural antiseptic which contains; a high terpinene-4-ol content, the primary germicidal active, and low Para-cymene content to minimise skin irritation. Tea tree oil works as antiseptic, bactericide and fungicide containing 48 different organic compounds. It heals from within by penetrating the epidermis. Some of the things people use this oil for include: athlete's foot, acne, boils, burns, warts, tonsillitis, sinus infections, ringworm, skin rashes, impetigo, head lice, insect repellent, cold sores, insect bites, and fungal infections. The oil works in different ways to achieve the desired effect, such as with acne; it disperses the pus in the pimples to clean and heal. Unlike other medication for acne, it does not damage the skin with side effects of dry skin, stinging, burning, redness and scaring. Tea tree oil is able to kill bacteria on the skin, by piercing the layers of the skin. One of the reasons tea tree oil is so effective is because it is not widely used, and many other medications are becoming resistant to bacteria.

http://vitanetonline.com/forums/1/Thread/441, (2005)

www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/content/news/news/1079/, (2001)

Antiseptic cream

Antiseptic cream was designed to heal and prevent infections by inhibiting or reversing growth of bacteria. Unlike antibiotics which are used to destroy bacteria inside the body, antiseptics are used to destroy bacteria on the skin and tissue. Antiseptics are used by applying the cream to the skin and either leaving on to evaporate or washed off after a certain period of time. Antiseptic creamworks by altering the pH level of the bacteria, therefore the bacteria is destroyed as it can't live or grow.


Bepanthen Antiseptic Cream

Bepanthen cream is an antiseptic cream used for the treatment of abrasions, minor infections and is specifically used for nappy rash. Bepanthen Antiseptic Cream contains: almond oil, dexpanthenol (provitamin B5) and a gentle antiseptic. Each gram contains Benzalkonium Chloride 500mcg.


The Benzalkonium Chloride solution in the Bepanthan antiseptic cream, is a Bactericide, Algaecide,and Fungicide, with a pH of 7.5. It contains three chemicals consisting of; biocide, a cationic surfactant and phase transfer agent, and is soluble in ethanol and acetone. Benzalkonium is usually used for disinfecting skin in preparation for incisions of syringes.

Dexpanthenol is the D form of Panthenol, meaning it is biologically active. 'Panthenol is the alcohol form of pantothenic acid, more familiar as Vitamin B5.'(2). It helps improve the healing of epidermal wounds, and also hydrates, as well as reducing itching and inflammation. Its chemical formula consists of: HO-CH2-C(CH3)2-CH(OH)-CONH-CH2CH2CH2-OH.



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benzalkonium_chloride- Benzalkonium Chloride Solutions". QuatChem Limited. 2009. http://www.quatchem.co.uk/55.html. Retrieved 2009-03-06. 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency- Micheal Smith- April 1993


Negatives of antiseptic creams

There are a few reasons antiseptic creams don't work. Mostly this is because people do not apply enough substance to the infected area. Another reason why it is sometimes not effective is because the specific bacterium has developed a resistance to the product. The overuse of antibacterial products has actually been proved to help save bacteria rather than killing them. 'Bacteria form these immunities when they are exposed to an antibacterial solution, but by some coincidence a few aren't destroyed'(3). These surviving cells then pass on their immunity to other bacteria through bacterial conjunction.

http://scienceray.com/biology/human-biology/antiseptics-and-bacteria/#ixzz0m77KEBmr (Aaron Boyle, 2008)


Honey has the ability to heal as it has a natural hydrogen peroxide antibacterial property. After bee's gather honey, to preserve it they add an enzyme called glucose oxidase. 'When honey comes into contact with body moisture the glucose oxidase enzyme slowly releases the antiseptic hydrogen peroxide.'(4). This hydrogen peroxide provides an antiseptic effective on bacteria, that is not tissue damaging.

http://manukahoney.com/resources/research/research01.html, (2003, Dr Peter Molan)




Factors affecting hydrogen peroxide in honey

Hydrogen peroxide in the honey can be affected by many factors. This is why it is not a sufficient antiseptic without UMF as well. Some of these factors include:

Some nectars destroy the glucose oxidase, because they produce a catalase that does this.

How it has been handled in processing, as glucose oxidase is easily destroyed by heat, fluid and sunlight.

Hydrogen peroxide can be broken down by a catalase enzyme in the body tissue and serum, thus reducing its effectiveness when used on an infection or wound.

Does not activate if there is not moisture, but will be destroyed if there is too much moisture.

Glucose oxidase requires oxygen.

http://manukahoney.com/resources/research/research01.html, (2003, Dr Peter Molan)

UMF Manuka Honey

Manuka honey is gathered from the Manuka flowers (Leptospermum scoparium). There are two types of Manuka honey. The ordinary Manuka honey which only contains hydrogen peroxide, and UMF Manuka honey which contains its own antibacterial property UMF. UMF (unique Manuka Factor) is found in some strands of Manuka honey, and is a phyrochemical property. UMF is a non-peroxide antibacterial, that is said to have been effective against a range of bacteria including; Staphylococcus aureus (cause of infected wounds, and MRSA), streptococcus pyogenes (cause of sore throats), and helicobacter pylori (bacteria of most stomach ulcers). The UMF rating refers to the antibacterial properties found within the Manuka honey. The UMF rating is placed on every packaged honey with a UMF level over 10. To test these levels each individual batch of honey is tested, as levels of UMF vary easily as UMF is not found within every Manuka plant. The levels of UMF are considered; 10-15: useful levels to deal with bacteria, 16-30: superior levels of high activity, effective in treating bacteria.

http://manukahoney.com/resources/research/research01.html, (2003, Dr Peter Molan)



http://manukahoney.com/resources/research/whatisspecial.html, (2003, SummerGlow Apiaries)


Positives of UMF Manuka Honey

UMF Manuka Honey has been proven to have significantly more effective antibacterial product than normal honey (containing just hydrogen peroxide). UMF works by penetrating deep into skin tissue, reaching deep into infections. 'It has been found able to penetrate 1cm of pork skin, fat and muscle overnight.'(5).Once in the infected area it has the ability to clean wounds by lifting dirt and bacteria out of the wound bed through osmosis. Unlike hydrogen peroxide, UMF does not need oxygen, so it can be smothered by wound dressings or cavities and still achieve the antibacterial effect required. The honey draws nutrients and body fluids to the wound, reducing scarring and assisting in cell growth. UMF is also an anti-inflammatory, as it contains antioxidants, it can mop up destructive free radicals, and this also helps assist in pain relief. The pH of this honey is very low, so it has the ability to slow down and prevent growth of bacteria because of its acidity. Unlike hydrogen peroxide, UMF is very stable. It is resistant to heat, fluid, sunlight, and is not broken down by the catalyst in the body. There is also a lot of evidence supporting that together, hydrogen peroxide and UMF has a synergistic effect. Meaning the combination of these two products has a greater effect when together, therefore making honey more effective as an antiseptic.

http://manukahoney.com/resources/research/whatisspecial.html, (2003, SummerGlow Apiaries)







Natural and man-made antiseptics will have the same effects on the bacteria culture 'Serratia marcescens.'


  • Petriy Dishes (6)
  • Serratia Marcens (Bacteria Culture)
  • Incubator
  • Parafilm
  • Aga Gel
  • Cotton Buds- Sterilized
  • forceps
  • Internet ( research)
  • Detergent spray to clean area after experiment
  • Camera
  • Gloves
  • Protective glasses
  • Ruler
  • Pens/pencils


Part A: creating bacteria culture

Retrieve the required amount of petri dishes containing agar gel from the fridge

Paint the dishes very lightly using sterilised cotton buds, using bacteria culture (serratia marcescens), firstly across four ways then round the edge, making sure the dish had a generous amount of serratia marcescens.

Seal dishes with paraphilm, allowing air through but not bacteria.

repeated for all of the dishes

Then place the pertri dishes in an incubator, set to 30ï‚°c. Leave to sit there for 4 days.

Part B: Experiment

Retrieve required amount of petri dishes from the incubator 4 days after being placed in there.

Using paper and a hole puncher, punch out four holes for each petri dish (used for a plug in the experiment, allowing to control the amount of solution applied onto the bacteria culture).

Place the different solutions in separate dishes.

The forceps then need to be sterilised: first dipped in alcohol, then flamed over a blue flame using Bunsen burners.

Using the sterilised forceps, one plug (hole punched paper) is then dipped in the first solution (e.g. tea tree oil), and then placed in the petri dish, making sure that it is far enough away from the edge

Between plugs the forceps must be re-sterilised for the need to consistency/ cross contamination.

This process is repeated for the other 3 plugs, making sure that they are an equal distance apart within the dish.

This is then repeated for the other solutions (e.g. antiseptic cream, and Manuka honey).

Once the petri dishes are complete they need to be re-sealed with paraphilm and then placed in the incubator at 30ï‚°C.


Thursday 20/5/10

The honey had the most effect on the bacteria culture, with the area of effect diameter of 1cm (diameter), after being in the incubator for 3 days.

The antiseptic cream had a minimal effect, with the range of only 0.6cm (diameter). The area of effect only just reached outside of the area of the plug.

The tea tree oil appeared to make no effect on the bacteria culture, with its range of 0.55cm (diameter).

Monday 24/5/10

The UMF Manuka honey 30+ had the greatest effect on the Serratia marcescens. The 30+ UMF had an area of effect of 1.3cm (diameter), after being in the incubator for 3 days.

The Manuka honey active 10+ had an area of effect of 1cm (diameter). The 10+ honey also had another ring of effect on the bacteria which ranged 1.5cm away from the centre of the plug with a diameter of 3cm.

The normal table honey made an area of impact of 0.7cm (diameter). It also had a large circle of effect (diameter of 2.5cm), where the honey had dispersed but not killed all of the bacteria.

The products (tea tree oil, antiseptic cream, and Manuka honey) that were put in the incubator a week ago were also observed. There was no changes in the antibacterial effect from 20/5/10.


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