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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Jamie Goode

New research on the health benefits of wine drinking has thrown up a novel mechanism by which red wine might protect against cardiovascular disease. Until now, scientists have suggested that wine's beneficial properties might be mediated by chemicals that act as anti-oxidants and anti-clotting factors, either directly on blood vessel walls or in the blood, by affecting the proportions of good or bad cholesterol in the blood. But new research led by Dr Gail Mahady of the University of Illinois suggests that active compounds from red wine such as resveratrol might be acting as antibiotics, killing microbes that some think have a role in the development of atherosclerotic plaques in blood vessel walls. Mahady and her colleagues took the bacterium that has been identified as a possible cause of atherosclerosis, Chlamydia pneumoniae, and studied the effect of wine extracts (Californian Pinot Noir) and pure resveratrol (a polyphenolic chemical found in red wine) on cultures of this bug. They found that both resveratrol and the red wine extracts demonstrated antimicrobial action against the two test strains of bacteria when used at relatively low concentrations. Mahady told Harpers that this concentration equates to about one glass of Pinot Noir'. Chlamydia is not the only bacterium that wine acts on: We have good evidence that red wine and resveratrol inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori,' she said. Dr Mahady's work is published in the journal Atherosclerosis.