01/27/2016 04:52 EST | Updated 01/27/2016 04:59 EST

Clay Used By B.C. First Nations Is Killing 'Untreatable' Bacteria: UBC Research


Clay that's long been used by B.C. First Nations for healing purposes is killing bacteria that other drugs can't beat, according to researchers from the University of British Columbia.

The mud, found in Kisameet Bay about 400 kilometres north of Vancouver, has been used by the Heiltsuk First Nation to treat conditions including arthritis, colitis, skin irritations and burns for centuries.

UBC researchers Julian Davies and Shekooh Behroozian pose with a bucket of clay from Kisameet Bay, B.C. (Photo: UBC)

UBC researchers Julian Davies and Shekooh Behroozian teamed up to test the clay against strains of ESKAPE bacteria — potentially deadly pathogens that are responsible for the majority of hospital infections in the U.S.

The bacteria are also "essentially untreatable" with antibiotics, said Davies in a media release. But 16 strains from Vancouver hospital samples were successfully "killed" with the Kisameet clay in recent lab tests.

Clay from Kisameet Bay, B.C. is showing promise against a strain of bacteria that doesn't respond to traditional antibiotics. (Photo: UBC)

A business called Kisameet Glacial Clay partnered with UBC on the research program. The firm markets cosmetic and medicinal products made from the clay.

President Lawrence Lund said he hopes a safe antimicrobial can be developed to fight against the ESKAPE pathogens and other infections.

The university said no side effects have been reported by humans using the clay, and the next clinical step is toxicity testing.

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