News Local

B.C. clay could fight bacterial infections

By Eric MacKenzie

Clay harvested from a deposit in Heiltsuk First Nation territory has displayed antibacterial qualities to UBC researchers.  
KISAMEET GLACIAL CLAY INC.

Clay harvested from a deposit in Heiltsuk First Nation territory has displayed antibacterial qualities to UBC researchers. KISAMEET GLACIAL CLAY INC.

For centuries, B.C.’s Heiltsuk First Nation has used mineral clay from Kisameet Bay for medicinal purposes, and researchers at UBC are now figuring out the science behind its healing potential.

According to a paper published Tuesday in the American Society for Microbiology’s “mBio” journal, UBC scientists are recommending that the Kisameet clay be studied further as a possible treatment for bacterial infections.

The clay deposit, found on Heiltsuk traditional territory near Bella Bella, occupies a five-acre basin that is believed to have been formed 10,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age. Heiltsuk people have long been utilizing it in treating several internal and external ailments, ranging from ulcerative colitis to burns.

Researchers found that the clay, suspended in water, killed 16 strains of ESKAPE bacteria samples – an acronym that refers to six pathogens that are responsible for most hospital infections.

“Infections caused by ESKAPE bacteria are essentially untreatable and contribute to increasing mortality in hospitals,” Julian Davies, a UBC microbiologist and one of the paper’s authors, said in a Tuesday release.

“After 50 years of over-using and misusing antibiotics, ancient medicinal and other natural, mineral-based agents may provide new weapons in the battle against multidrug-resistant pathogens.”

Researchers also did not find any toxic side effects related to human use, said the release, and more detailed study and toxicity testing will need to be conducted before its use as a clinical treatment can be examined further.