Christina Lee, an expert on Anglo-Saxon society from the School of English at the University of Nottingham, translated the ancient manuscript despite some ambiguities in the text.
"We chose this recipe in Bald's Leechbook because it contains ingredients such as garlic that are currently investigated by other researchers on their potential antibiotic effectiveness," Lee said in a video posted on the university's website.
"And so we looked at a recipe that is fairly straightforward. It's also a recipe where we are told it's the 'best of leechdoms' -- how could you not test that? So we were curious."
Lee enlisted the help of the university's microbiologists to see if the remedy actually worked.
The recipe calls for two species of Allium (garlic and onion or leek), wine and oxgall (bile from a cow's stomach) to be brewed in a brass vessel.
"We recreated the recipe as faithfully as we could. The Bald gives very precise instructions for the ratio of different ingredients and for the way they should be combined before use, so we tried to follow that as closely as possible," said microbiologist Freya Harrison, who led the work in the lab at the School of Life Sciences.
The book included an instruction for the recipe to be left to stand for nine days before being strained through a cloth. Efforts to replicate the recipe exactly included finding wine from a vineyard known to have existed in the ninth century, according to Steve Diggle, an associate professor of sociomicrobiology, who also worked on the project.
The researchers then tested their recipe on cultures of MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a type of staph bacterium that does not respond to commonly used antibiotic treatments.
The scientists weren't holding out much hope that it would work -- but they were astonished by the lab results.
"What we found was very interesting -- we found that Bald's eyesalve is incredibly potent as an anti-Staphylococcal antibiotic in this context," Harrison said.
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