Infection-Fighting Magic of Hot Tea and Coffee


Coffee and tea already have a large repertoire of health benefits. But now we can add a new talent: Infection fighter.  Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a dangerous type of bacteria resistant to the antibiotic methicillin and it can cause serious infections.  More than 278,000 Americans were hospitalized with MRSA-related infections in 2005.  The nose is a common site where a person can harbor the bacteria.  In order to prevent and treat MRSA, researchers have been investigating the effects that plants and plant extracts have, with the most promising being tea and coffee showing antimicrobial effects.

Using data from a large nationally representative sample in the U.S., researchers examined the consumption of tea and coffee in relation to whether or not they were carriers of MRSA.  The study found that 1.4 percent of the sample group was carriers of MRSA.  Those who consumed hot tea had approximately one-half less likelihood of being MRSA carriers.  Similar but less strong results were seen with coffee consumption.  This protective effect seems to only apply when people drank hot tea and coffee, not iced.  Possible explanation to the benefits of hot tea as opposed to cold is that iced tea has lower levels of polyphenols than hot tea; also the antimicrobial compounds of the tea may reach the nose in vapor form, which applies to hot tea and coffee.

More similar studies need to be conducted to draw any firm conclusions about possible antimicrobial effects of tea and coffee, but the findings so far are definitely promising. Time to head to Starbucks!

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