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Last updateWed, 11 Oct 2017 3pm

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MU Students to Present their Research in San Diego

MU Student ResearchSeniors Erin Cieslak, biology molecular cell physiology student, Jenies Grullon, Health Studies student, and biology professor Dr. James P. Mack have been working towards developing a treatment for antibiotic-resistant bacteria by exploring the inhibitory effects of several essential oils. They will be presenting their research at the American Chemical Society National Meeting in San Diego, CA.

Since the development of antibiotics in the early twentieth century, millions of lives have been saved globally. However, antibiotics have not been effective in combatting bacteria that have eventually become resistant to them. Due to the overuse and distribution of antibiotics, treatment options have become limited. The main purpose behind this research is to develop a treatment for antibiotic-resistant bacteria by looking into natural plant products and diluted essential oils. By using natural products, treatments for these ever-evolving bacteria can be produced and used by individuals everywhere, even those who live in impoverished areas.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), antibiotic resistance has become a worldwide problem. New forms of antibiotic resistant bacteria have spread between continents with ease and have posed a great threat to individuals who have acquired serious infections with bacteria that are resistant to one or more of the antibiotics used to treat them. The CDC has outlined four core actions that will help fight these infections: preventing the infections and the spread of resistance, tracking resistant bacteria, improving the use of today’s antibiotics, and promoting the development of new antibiotics and developing new diagnostic tests for resistant bacteria.

During this research study, Cieslak looked into two bacteria in particular: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Methicillin-sensitive, Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) bacteria. The three essential oils that were used were Cassia, Cinnamon, Thyme White, as well as Methylglyoxal, which is the key component in Manuka Honey. These four materials were selected because their past usage has proved effective in previous studies done at the University.

Since these essential oils are irritating to the skin in their concentrated form, the oils were diluted with the safe carrier oils olive oil, jojoba oil, and coconut oil before they were used. By using the essential oils in their diluted forms, their effectiveness against the MRSA and MSSA bacteria was determined. In conclusion, the 25 percent dilution worked more effectively than the standard antibiotic, Vancomycin, and worked at about the same level as the antibiotic, Rifampin. However, Rifampin is not used as frequently due to its side effects.

Grullon was accepted to present her research into the National Conference of Undergraduate Research (NCUR) in Asheville, NC. At the NCUR, she will be presenting the effects of diluted essential oils on inhibiting the growth of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, another multi-drug resistant bacterium. Dilutions were performed using Lanolin and Jojoba oils with the essential oils and methylglyoxal. During her research, Grullon found that Cinnamon Bark and Cassia essential oils worked most effectively against this bacterium. Methylglyoxal also had positive results. At the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of these emollients, the inhibiting effects of this treatment on Pseudomonas aeruginosa was found to be equal to or more than Amikacin and Tobramycin, the standard antibiotics.  However, these emollients were not as effective as Ciproflaxin, which according to the U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA) has many adverse side effects and is not commonly used. Combinations of other essential oils and were also tested, but were proven to be less effective than the emollient combinations.  

Being a part of a research study allows students to gain knowledge and learn laboratory techniques outside of the normal course work. For Cieslak and Grullon, performing research with  Mack has stimulated them to think critically and strategically. Mack said, “Erin and Grullon are excellent students and researchers and I see a bright future for them. They make Monmouth proud and we will soon call them our alumnae.”

They will join him (class of 1962) as fellow alumni. Cieslak, who has been accepted into Hofstra’s Physician Assistant Program, said that the research has truly helped her appreciate the educational experiences she has had here at Monmouth. By speaking about the research and her role within the study, she was able to show her dedication and interest in the sciences. She also completed the Summer Research Program (SRP) at Monmouth with Grullon during the summer of 2015.

Grullon, adds to Cieslak’s comments by mentioning the relationships they have developed with professionals in the field. The importance of this research topic is shared amongst scientists, researchers, and healthcare professionals. Specifically, Cieslak and Grullon have established relationships with the Chief of Clinical Microbiology from Jersey Shore University Medical Center and professionals at doTERRA Essential Oils, the company who supplied the essential oils, because of their interest in the students’ research.

Research opportunities should be embraced during a student’s undergraduate years. Being able to show interest outside of your required classes is very desirable to graduate schools, professional schools, and potential employers. In addition to being a part of potential life changing discoveries in science, one can also have the opportunity to have their research results published, which will be the next step for both Cieslak and Grullon. The central message?  Take advantage of important opportunities at Monmouth, form as many connections as possible, and encourage yourself to learn outside of the classroom.

PHOTO COURTESY of Erin Cieslak

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