How the humble cashew could help solve the world's antibiotic crisis

Kevin Farrell

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Super gonorrhea is coming for you, boys and girls. Thanks to a decades-long heavy handed overprescribing of antibiotics by doctors to treat everything from the sniffles to stomach cramps, just in case, a strain of Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria has developed a total immunity to antibiotic treatment. Of the 78 Million new infections of “the clap” that occur worldwide each year, an alarming number of patients are discovering that their symptoms are unfortunately impossible to treat, at least for the time being. But could a salty snacking staple be the key to treating the untreatable? Could cashews save all of humankind from antibiotic-resistant superbugs intent on killing us off?

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JERKED CASHEWS! Have you ever had the pleasure of seeing Cashew grow? Or of picking and roasting your own? They grow all over Jamaica wild and farmed. Here are some of the amazing things this well loved nut is capable of. Jamaicans are using Cashew to make Nut Butter, cakes, creamy desserts, high protein snacks and ice cream! Now in true Jamaican stylee, we see them being not only being roasted, but JERKED and eaten as an on-the-go delicious and creative snack. Have you had a Cashew smoothie? Go try it, you won't believe how tasty it is! @exhibitionj #jamaicanfood #jamaicancuisine #jerk #veggiejerk #jerkpan #veganlife #876life #876 #jamaicalandwelove #jamaicantings #getmetojamaica #realjamaica #jamaicansnacks #healthyeatingideas #foodheaven #cashewnuts #jamaicansbelike #jamaicanlife #jamaicanculture #veganbbq #veggielife #highproteinsnacks #ilovejamaica #yardie #sweetjamaica #sweetsweetjamaica #outofmanyonepeople #jamaicanstyle #nutfarm #jamaicansbelike

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For starters, let me clarify that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are hardly the only, or even the biggest, drug resistant threat knocking at our collective door. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 23,000 Americans die from antibiotic-resistant germs each year, among a daunting 2 million annual infections. And if that news isn’t quite terrifying enough for you, how’s this: these superbugs turned up in a whopping 11% of people in a screening study among people who had no outward symptoms of infection.

Antimicrobial resistance tends to only bubble up into the national news discourse during outbreaks of STIs or in particularly harrowing individual cases, but the reality of the situation is that humans are facing an enormous epidemic of our own making. In fact, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are becoming so implausibly prevalent, that a recent inspection by The Environmental Working Group found the bacteria present in 80% of ground turkey and 62% of ground beef being sold in U.S. supermarkets.But scientists are hopeful that just as as yet untreatable bacteria are invading our food supply, that another food may provide an effective treatment for fighting back.

You’ve likely cracked peanut shells open before, discarding the papery skins as you mindlessly munch. The same goes for pistachios, and maybe even walnuts. But cash money says you’ve never even seen a cashew in its shell, let alone liberated a handful of them from their natural armor. That’s because cashew shells contain unique, naturally occurring plant oils that are so toxic to humans that contact with skin can result in severe chemical burns more akin to acid exposure than any particular food allergy.

It’s that volatile, acidic nature of cashew oil that has scientists hopeful that there’s a potential medical breakthrough on the horizon here. Or more specifically, the phenolic lipids, cardanol, and anacardic acid compounds contained within the oily shells. While the three compounds combine to elicit a “poison ivy dialed up to 100” effect upon human skin, scientists have realized the potential that anacardic acid can have in human medicine when isolated.

Researchers in India and parts Africa have been experimenting with cashew anacardic acid for several decades now, to promising results. India, conveniently, is one of the largest cashew producing nations in the world. And to an overwhelming extent, the shells of the nut are discarded.

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#cashew #konkan_meva

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So just how promising are cashew oil-derived medicines looking? In a 2017 study attempting to treat Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), one of the worst of the worst drug-resistant superbugs out there, anacardic acids not only isolated and attacked the infection, but they also supercharged the human immune system at the same time. This strategy is directly at odds with our prevailing go-to strategy of antibiotic treatment of the past century, in which beneficial bacteria like human gut microbes are killed off by the drugs used to treat infection. Rather than detonating antibiotic nuclear bombs within our bodies, cashew oil compounds present an opportunity for treatment more akin to highly targeted attacks on the offending bacteria alone.

Cashew therapies to treat infectious diseases are still years away from the sort of peer review and clinical trials necessary to make a sea change in the medical community. But at a time when so much of the news about antibiotic-resistant superbugs focuses on the hopelessness of the situation, cashews are providing scientists with a real and rare glimmer of hope.

Kevin Farrell

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