Wood can replace window glass when its biopolymer lignin is removed.
Now, a US research team has discovered that the same polymer can be used in a medical context.
They combined lignin from spruce trees with positively charged ammonium ions, whose mildly acidic qualities are effective against mould, viruses and bacteria.
Tests showed that an infectious but antibiotic-resistant type of E. Coli bacteria targeting urinary passages died when it came into contact with the modified lignin.
The insight could help turn millions of tonnes of lignin waste into herbal antibiotics each year. Research costs for new antimicrobial drugs would thus also be lowered.