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Editorial for the Special Issue: “Honey Bee Products as an Alternative or Complement to Classical Antibiotics”

Department of Pharmaceutical Technology and Biochemistry, Faculty of Chemistry, Gdańsk University of Technology, ul. G. Narutowicza 11/12, 80-233 Gdańsk, Poland
Antibiotics 2021, 10(3), 234;
Submission received: 12 February 2021 / Accepted: 23 February 2021 / Published: 26 February 2021
Based on World Health Organization reports, the resistance of bacteria to well-known antibiotics is becoming a major global health challenge [1]. The number of bacteria and pathogenic fungi resistant to a plethora of antibiotics and chemotherapeutics has quickly increased during the last two to three decades, and very few new antimicrobial medicines have been approved since the beginning of the 21st century. Thus, there is an urgent need to search for new agents, as well as therapy systems effective in the treatment of infectious diseases. A promising but underestimated group of potential antimicrobial agents are bee products.
This Special Issue includes four reviews and nine research articles focused mainly on the antimicrobial potential of bee products and possibilities of their application for the treatment of infectious diseases caused by different groups of bacteria. The articles have been prepared by around seventy authors from thirteen different countries, namely, Brazil, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, the UK and the USA.
In review articles, Nolan and coworkers [2] and Combarros-Fuertes and colleagues [3] present the current state of the knowledge about the perspectives, advantages and limitations of the application of honey for the treatment of infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Honeybee products are a great source of polyphenols, with a number of recognized bioactivities, such as antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Curutiu and coworkers [4] discussed the potential of polyphenols of honeybee origin in prophylactic and therapeutic approaches in oral pathologies, including bacterial and fungal infections. An excellent review on the antimicrobial activity and therapeutic potential of lesser-known bee products, namely, bee pollen and bee bread, is presented by Didaras and colleagues [5].
Still, very little is known about the role of phytochemicals in the antimicrobial activity of honey. Some important information in this area is presented in the article of Shirlaw and coworkers [6], who calculated the predicted binding affinities and ligand efficiencies of Manuka and Heather honey constituents for PaDsbA1, the main enzyme controlling the correct folding of virulence proteins in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The group of Ng [7] revealed that honeydew honeys produced by stingless bees (Heterotrigona itama and Geniotrigona thoracica) exhibit higher antibacterial activity than the blossom and honeydew honeys produced by the honey bee (Apis cerana). Moreover, the authors observed some synergistic interactions between honey and selected antibiotics (ampicillin and gentamicin). The outcomes of the study of Yu and coworkers [8] reveal a high bactericidal activity and spore-inhibition effect of manuka honey against Clostridioides difficile, a major cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhea worldwide. Nairi et al. [9] discussed the beneficial effects of MGH (medical-grade honey) on infected diabetic ulcers. The authors present six patients with infected diabetic ulcers, some of whom were at risk of (further) amputation. Previous treatments with antibiotics, silver and alginate dressings, surgical closure, and maggot therapy were ineffective. MGH therapy reduced the malodor in a couple of days and controlled infection within 2–3 weeks; moreover, using MGH enhanced the process of wound healing.
The following two research articles concentrated on the antibacterial potential of bee propolis. Lavigne and colleagues revealed a synergistic effect of propolis and antibiotics [10] against uropathogenic Eschericha coli, and de Figueiredo and coworkers [11] found that extracts of Brazilian red propolis exhibit activity comparable with amoxicillin’s in controlling multispecies subgingival biofilms.
The outcomes of an investigation performed by Polish researchers [12] reveal the high antistaphylococcal activity of ethanolic extracts of bee pollen and bee bread. The authors also found that bee bread exhibits slightly higher potential compared to bee pollen, which is of particular importance from the point of view of the health of bee colonies.
The two articles by Iorizzo and coworkers [13,14] concern slightly different—and very interesting—areas of the health benefit potential of bee products. The authors investigated the antimicrobial potential of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) isolated from the bee products and gastrointestinal tracts of Apis mellifera L. The investigated isolates exhibited promising activity against dangerous bee pathogens: Ascosphaera apis and Paenibacillus larvae (the causative agent of American foulbrood (AFB)). It is highly possible that LAB, isolated from bee products and also bees’ guts, produce metabolites that are effective inhibitors of the etiological agents of different infections of other animals and humans.
The articles presented in this Special Issue are important for the promotion of the application of bee products as antimicrobial agents in clinical scenarios, but also to fill gaps in our knowledge about the molecular mechanisms of their biological activities. Some articles reveal that the microbiomes of bee products also constitute promising—but not yet well investigated—sources of microorganisms, producing metabolites of high antibacterial activity. Aspirant authors interested in the antimicrobial potential of bee products are invited to contribute to the second edition of the Special Issue with the title “Honey Bee Products as an Alternative or Complement to Classical Antibiotics”.


  1. Seleem, D.; Pardi, V.; Murata, R.M. Review of flavonoids: A diverse group of natural compounds with anti-Candida albicans activity in vitro. Arch. Oral Biol. 2017, 76, 76–83. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  2. Nolan, V.C.; Harrison, J.; Wright, J.E.E.; Cox, J.A.G. Clinical Significance of Manuka and Medical-Grade Honey for Antibiotic-Resistant Infections: A Systematic Review. Antibiotics 2020, 9, 766. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  3. Combarros-Fuertes, P.; Fresno, J.M.; Estevinho, M.M.; Sousa-Pimenta, M.; Tornadijo, M.E.; Estevinho, L.M. Honey: Another Alternative in the Fight against Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria? Antibiotics 2020, 9, 774. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  4. Curuțiu, C.; Dițu, L.M.; Grumezescu, A.M.; Holban, A.M. Polyphenols of Honeybee Origin with Applications in Dental Medicine. Antibiotics 2020, 9, 856. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  5. Didaras, N.A.; Karatasou, K.; Dimitriou, T.G.; Amoutzias, G.D.; Mossialos, D. Antimicrobial Activity of Bee-Collected Pollen and Beebread: State of the Art and Future Perspectives. Antibiotics 2020, 9, 811. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  6. Shirlaw, O.; Billah, Z.; Attar, B.; Hughes, L.; Qasaymeh, R.M.; Seidel, V.; Efthimiou, G. Antibiofilm Activity of Heather and Manuka Honeys and Antivirulence Potential of Some of Their Constituents on the DsbA1 Enzyme of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Antibiotics 2020, 9, 911. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  7. Ng, W.-J.; Sit, N.-W.; Ooi, P.A.-C.; Ee, K.-Y.; Lim, T.-M. The Antibacterial Potential of Honeydew Honey Produced by Stingless Bee (Heterotrigona itama) against Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria. Antibiotics 2020, 9, 871. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  8. Yu, L.; Palafox-Rosas, R.; Luna, B.; She, R.C. The Bactericidal Activity and Spore Inhibition Effect of Manuka Honey against Clostridioides difficile. Antibiotics 2020, 9, 684. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  9. Nair, H.K.R.; Tatavilis, N.; Pospíšilová, I.; Kučerová, J.; Cremers, N.A.J. Medical-Grade Honey Kills Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria and Prevents Amputation in Diabetics with Infected Ulcers: A Prospective Case Series. Antibiotics 2020, 9, 529. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  10. Lavigne, J.-P.; Ranfaing, J.; Dunyach-Rémy, C.; Sotto, A. Synergistic Effect of Propolis and Antibiotics on Uropathogenic Escherichia coli. Antibiotics 2020, 9, 739. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  11. de Figueiredo, K.A.; da Silva, H.D.P.; Miranda, S.L.F.; Gonçalves, F.J.d.S.; de Sousa, A.P.; de Figueiredo, L.C.; Feres, M.; Bueno-Silva, B. Brazilian Red Propolis Is as Effective as Amoxicillin in Controlling Red-Complex of Multispecies Subgingival Mature Biofilm In Vitro. Antibiotics 2020, 9, 432. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  12. Pełka, K.; Otłowska, O.; Worobo, R.W.; Szweda, P. Bee Bread Exhibits Higher Antimicrobial Potential Compared to Bee Pollen. Antibiotics 2021, 10, 125. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  13. Iorizzo, M.; Testa, B.; Lombardi, S.J.; Ganassi, S.; Ianiro, M.; Letizia, F.; Succi, M.; Tremonte, P.; Vergalito, F.; Cozzolino, A.; et al. Antimicrobial Activity against Paenibacillus larvae and Functional Properties of Lactiplantibacillus plantarum Strains: Potential Benefits for Honeybee Health. Antibiotics 2020, 9, 442. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  14. Iorizzo, M.; Lombardi, S.J.; Ganassi, S.; Testa, B.; Ianiro, M.; Letizia, F.; Succi, M.; Tremonte, P.; Vergalito, F.; Cozzolino, A.; et al. Antagonistic Activity against Ascosphaera apis and Functional Properties of Lactobacillus kunkeei Strains. Antibiotics 2020, 9, 262. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
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Szweda, P. Editorial for the Special Issue: “Honey Bee Products as an Alternative or Complement to Classical Antibiotics”. Antibiotics 2021, 10, 234.

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Szweda P. Editorial for the Special Issue: “Honey Bee Products as an Alternative or Complement to Classical Antibiotics”. Antibiotics. 2021; 10(3):234.

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Szweda, Piotr. 2021. "Editorial for the Special Issue: “Honey Bee Products as an Alternative or Complement to Classical Antibiotics”" Antibiotics 10, no. 3: 234.

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