Hot coffee and tea could combat MRSA

By Shayna Brouker • Published: October 6th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Fall is officially here, along with all the trappings of the season: falling leaves, crisp air, football and jack-o-lanterns. It also marks the onset of sneezes, sniffles and coughs: That’s right, it’s cold and flu season.

But the bug you should really beware of is MRSA [MUR-sa], the strain of bacteria carried in the noses of as many as 2.5 million people in the United States. MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This “superbug” is resistant to antibiotics and is contracted through skin-to-skin contact, open cuts and touching tainted surfaces, like doorknobs and towels. A MRSA infection can appear as a pimple, abscess or skin inflammation. Though MRSA can be fatal, about one in 100 people carry it on their skin without harm.

But a good way to ward off the superbug altogether could already be in your hand or on your lips. New research published in the Annals of Family Medicine found that people who sipped hot coffee or tea were 50 percent less likely to have traces of MRSA bacteria in their nose, compared with those who did not. The study from the University of South Carolina sampled 5,500 people and found that imbibing hot beverages was associated with a lower risk of contracting MRSA.

But keep those drinks toasty: Soda and iced tea had no significant effect on nasal MRSA risk. The scientists believe coffee and tea’s ability to combat MRSA could have something to do with their antimicrobial properties, which are activated only when hot. The antimicrobials could also be breathed in through the beverages’ vapors.

More research is needed to definitely determine coffee and tea’s effects on staph. In the meantime, go ahead and grab a pumpkin spice latte or peppermint tea before you step outside. Not only will you be better prepared to brave the brisk weather, you could bolster your ability to battle MRSA.