Cranberry Treatment Myth Has Minimal Truth

Experiments show that cranberry juice can’t kill bacteria

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

An old home remedy for bacterial infections falls apart under scientific scrutiny.

We’ve all heard it before: If you have a bacterial infection, drink cranberry juice to fight it. But doctors have been hesitant to stake their reputation in support of this claim, and new evidence has revealed that they may be in the right.

A review of 24 studies observing more than 4,000 patients has revealed that there may not be much truth behind the old wives’ tale. While cranberry juice or extract is the go-to home remedy for urinary tract infections (UTIs), a bacterial infection of the urethra, research has uncovered that this method does not kill bacteria.

A recent study by scientists at McGill University treated the bacterium P. mirabilis, a key cause of UTIs, with cranberry powder. While the powder did not kill the bacteria, it did severely limit its motion, nearly paralyzing it. The bacterium’s ability to produce urease, the enzyme doctors believe is responsible for the virulence of infection, was also diminished. Chemicals in cranberries can also inhibit motion in E.coli.

Scientists believe that immobilizing bacteria instead of killing them is a good thing, as it will prevent the bacteria from developing resistance to the substance.

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While cranberry can affect bacteria, it cannot kill them, and medical professionals maintain that antibiotics are the only effective way to treat a UTI or bacterial infection.