A new study published on Monday in the Journal of Clinical Investigation has found that vitamin B3, otherwise known as niacin or nicotinamide, can significantly improve the body's ability to fight off staph infections. The researchers involved had been looking for what they termed "novel antimicrobial therapies" that would be effective against that type of bacteria, since the use of antibiotics has led to the emergence of more resistant forms, dubbed "superbugs," that do not respond to current treatments.
Here is some of the key information to emerge from the study regarding niacin's effect on staph bacteria.
* Staph infections are caused by Staphylococcus bacteria. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms can vary wildly in their severity, ranging from a very minor skin infection to potentially fatal blood or heart infections. Common forms include the drug-resistant MRSA infection.
* Like many other bacteria and viruses, Staphylococcus is becoming drug-resistant as it mutates into what health officials have dubbed a "superbug" -- a bug that either can rarely be effectively treated with the antibiotics that are currently available, or cannot be treated with those antibiotics at all.
* Because Staphylococcus is developing "superbug" variants of itself, researchers are on the hunt for alternative therapies and new antibiotics that will be effective in treating the bacteria's stronger variations.
* In the research report, the authors detailed how they found that by introducing a high dose of niacin to human blood samples, they were able to quickly trigger an immune system response that was approximately 1,000 times stronger than normal, amplifying the body's ability to fight off the staph bacteria.
* Study author Adrian Gombart, an associate professor at Oregon State University, told MyHealthNewsDaily on Tuesday that the study's findings could "give us a new way to treat staph infections," and that vitamin B3 could potentially be used "in combination with current antibiotics."
* In the study itself, researchers used doses of niacin that were much higher than what the average person would take on any given day. Gombart was quick to warn against self-medicating with high doses of niacin hoping to ward off infection, as sustained high doses of the vitamin can cause health issues.
* The high doses of niacin, he said, would theoretically be available by prescription and be designed to be administered for only a short time while the person fought off the infection.
* Gombart told Fox News on Tuesday that further study involving humans will be necessary in order to determine the vitamin's true effectiveness against staph infections.
Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan, with a lifelong interest in health and nutrition issues.