South African researchers may have found a simple and effective way of tackling dangerous infections - garlic.
The Child's Health Institute in Cape Town has found that garlic has antifungal and antibiotic powers.
Sid Cywes, Professor of paediatrics at the Red Cross Children's Hospital, discovered the garlic's power by chance while indulging in his favourite pastime, breeding and hybridising disas, an orchid type plant common on Table Mountain and the environs of Cape Town.
The beakers storing his cuttings became infected with a fungus. Consulting an old reference book, he tried garlic solution to control it.
The effect was astonishing and he immediately wanted to try it on human infections.
He and colleague Peter de Vet are now ready to try the formula on the hospital ward.
Mr de Vet said: "I make it two parts water to one part garlic, and then put it in the centrifuge to get rid of the lumps. The aqueous solution is then administered to babies and children either mixed in with their milk bottle or some orange juice."
In the burns unit, two millilitres of the garlic solution are administered every four to six hours.
"They don't like it, sometimes they complain about the taste or the smell, but there are no other side effects."
The garlic is used in conjunction with antibiotic creams in the burns unit, as it has yet to undergo a full clinical trial, although Mr de Vet says the results in reducing infection have been very encouraging.
"We use it to treat children that are resistant to multi-action antibiotics, and children that have been on antibiotics for a long time and have developed oral thrush, with great success."
It is even proving to be effective on streptococcus infections, something that could have profound implications in a country where incidence of HIV/AIDs is one of the highest in the world.
Mr de Vet is hoping to start full clinical trials on HIV babies with candida infections in the near future.
However, those who hope that an extra bit of garlic sauce on their spaghetti might help will be disappointed.
The active property of garlic, allicin, is only released on crushing and is destroyed by the heating process, so the garlic must be taken in its raw and somewhat smelly form.