Active Australian Leptospermum honey: new sources and their bioactivity

University of Technology, Sydney

  • Project code: PRJ-009186

  • Project stage: Closed

  • Project start date: Saturday, August 30, 2014

  • Project completion date: Monday, October 28, 2019

  • National Priority: HBE-Identify and develop technology for improved hive performance.


Honey has gained acceptance as a high value medicinal product. This is largely the result of research showing that New Zealand (NZ) manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) honey is a potent killer of numerous bacterial (including antibiotic-resistant) pathogens. This antimicrobial activity is attributed to the unusually high level of methylglyoxal (MGO) in manuka honey. Significantly, manuka honey does not invoke resistance and can act synergistically with common antibiotics. Furthermore, unpublished data suggests manuka honey has potent synergy with antifungal agents.
This proven therapeutic value of manuka honey has led to a premium price to NZ beekeepers for this honey, and an increase in all NZ honey prices.
This proposal aims to provide a rigorous evidence base for the value of Australian Leptospermum honey as a therapeutic agent that is as effective as manuka honey against bacteria. It will capitalise on preliminary work by Carter and Blair showing this. It aims to undertake a comprehensive and systematic survey of Leptospermum honey from throughout the major beekeeping areas of Australia. The survey will include a chemical and antimicrobial analysis of these honeys to identify those that have the highest antibacterial activity as correlated with MGO/DHA levels. We will examine honeys for broad-spectrum antibacterial activity and test for synergy when honey is combined with commonly used antifungals and antibacterials. The data obtained will command a premium price for Australian Leptospermum honeys to Australian beekeepers, as has been the case in NZ, and will also contribute to addressing the world-wide problem of increasing antibiotic resistance.


Honey Bee

Research Organisation

University of Technology, Sydney

Objective Summary

The hypotheses underlying the current proposal are that:
1. Australia, which is home to the largest diversity of Leptospermum plants in the world, has an enormous, untapped resource of highly active medicinal honey that can command a premium price locally and globally; and
2. A comprehensive study encompassing a structured survey of Australian Leptospermum honey, along with laboratory assessments of antimicrobial and antifungal activity using current best practice, will provide the scientific data required to capitalise on this resource.
The overall aim of this study is therefore to perform a large, systematic analysis of Australian Leptospermum honey. The specific R & D objectives are:
1. To perform a comprehensive, Australia-wide survey of Leptospermum honeys to identify floral sources and geographic locations that yield honey with the highest antimicrobial activity.
2. To determine whether antibacterial activity in Australian Leptospermum correlates with MGO/DHA levels, as is the case for manuka honey.
3. To test highly active Australian Leptospermum honey collected above against common problematic bacterial and fungal pathogens, including those that are resistant to multiple antibiotics, and determine i) the range and spectrum of activity; ii) whether pathogens can develop resistance to Australian Leptospermum honey; and iii) whether these honeys are potently synergistic with other antimicrobial drugs.