This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
Scientists at Washington State University have discovered a compound in garlic that is 100 times better than two popular antibiotics at killing Campylobacter, a type of bacteria that is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the United States. Diallyl sulphide, the compound responsible for this benefit, worked faster and more effectively than the typical antibiotic treatments of erythromycin and ciprofloxacin for intestinal illness produced by this food-borne bacterium.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that every year over 2 million Americans develop food poisoning caused by Campylobacter, a condition manifested by diarrhea and cramping, along with abdominal pain and fever. Most of these cases result from consuming undercooked poultry or consuming food contaminated by an item used to prepare the poultry. In addition to causing intestinal illness from food contamination, Campylobacter is also responsible for almost one-third of the cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a serious paralyzing disorder.
Campylobacter has two properties that make it particularly problematic. Because the bacteria have a protective coating, they are 1,000 times more difficult to eradicate than traditional bacteria. Also, this coating adheres to food and other surfaces, facilitating its spread.
Researchers found diallyl sulfide can easily penetrate this protective coating and destroy the bacteria. Furthermore, it proved to be 100 times more effective than the commonly used antibiotics and much faster, exerting its effects in only a fraction of the time required by erythromycin and ciprofloxacin.
This remarkable finding, published recently in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, opens the door for improved treatments for raw meat and food preparation surfaces. Lead author, Xiaonan Lu, states that the research results were very exciting because they indicate garlic may reduce bacteria in the environment, as well as in our food supply.
Coauthor Barbara Rasco expressed the expanse of the import of the study by pointing out diallyl sulfide could make many packaged foods safer to eat. She explains it could prolong the shelf life of items like potato and pasta salads, as well as coleslaw and deli meats.
The results of the investigation are the latest addition to the expanding evidence of garlic’s benefits. Earlier research shows that garlic may lower the risk of certain types of cancer, improve cholesterol levels and protect against cardiovascular disease. However, experts caution against taking large amounts of garlic, as the quantities required to reduce illness risk is unknown. More importantly, consuming too much of this substance can cause side effects, such as asthma, bleeding and intestinal maladies.
Using garlic to fight illness is a time-honored tradition, going back thousands of years. Although ancient civilizations used it to enhance health, they did not know specifically why it was beneficial.
“Now we are finding out,” Lu notes.
 Washington State University. Garlic compound fights source of food-borne illness better than antibiotics. ScienceDaily. 2012 May 1. http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2012/05/120501134203.htm.
 Xiaonan Lu et al. Antimicrobial effect of diallyl sulphide on Campylobacter jejuni biofilms. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2012 May 1. DOI: 10.1093/jac/dks138.