Allicin is produced naturally by garlic bulbs to ward off a closely-related group of plant pathogens found in soil and water habitats.
In the 1980s, the bacteria – known as the Burkholderia cepacia complex (Bcc) – emerged as a cause of serious and transmissible lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis.
Measures to limit the spread of Bcc infections among people with cystic fibrosis have brought the number of cases down considerably.
However, current therapies available to treat infections that are potentially fatal – are limited and require the use of combinations of three to four antibiotics at a time.
The bacteria produce potent antimicrobial agents which kill bacteria and fungi, making them naturally drug-resistant and allowing them to survive in polluted and antibiotic-rich environments.
The team says the Bcc also have a range of potential uses in the agriculture industry.
The study, published in the journal PLoS One, was funded by the University of Edinburgh and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

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