By Winniecynthia Awuor

With antimicrobial resistance (AMR) posing a global health threat, a new study has shown that a substance found in broccoli and other cabbage-like (cruciferous) vegetables called 3,3’-diindolylmethane(DIM) can reduce resistance to certain antibiotics.

Though DIM is already being used in high doses in the treatment of some cancers, the study  conducted at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University  finds that the substance in low concentration can disrupt ‘quorum communication’- it allows bacteria to share information about cell density and adjust their gene expression forming bacterial biofilms that protect bacteria from being eradicated by antibiotics.

According to the study, biofilm-associated drug resistance ensures greater bacterial survival producing persistent chronic infections despite intensive antibiotic treatment and host defense mechanisms.

“Drug-resistant biofilm-forming bacteria are known to pose an ever greater threat once they have already infected and damaged healthy tissue, therefore the addition of an anti-biofilm compound to traditional antibiotic treatments may improve outcomes,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

The research findings show that the biofilm formation of two of the most prioritized bacterial pathogens, Acinetobacter baumannii and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, was inhibited by 65% and 70% respectively.

When tested in combination with the antibiotic Tobramycin, DIM showed improved ability to work and help eliminate the bacterial resistance suggesting it may play a role in salvaging antibiotic potency. Specifically, combining the antibiotic with DIM enabled a 94% inhibition of P. aeruginosa biofilm. Also, DIM has an anti-inflamatory effect.

In a separate experiment, the scientists used DIM on infected wounds in an animal model and found that wounds healed faster and more effective than with antibiotics.

DIM can also be found in cabbage, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, Savoy cabbage, and gai lan.