What is MGO or Methylglyoxal in Mānuka?

The major antibacterial component in Manuka honey is methylglyoxal (MGO). It is found in most types of honey, but usually only in small quantities. But where does it come from in manuka honey?

In Mānuka Honey, MGO comes from the conversion of another compound dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which is found in high concentration in the nectar of Manuka flowers.  So what do I look for on your label and what makes MGO so special?

The potency honey is often referred to by using a number and MGO. Most brands like us use a plus (+) behind the number they have on their packaging because MGO grows over time. Yes, honey matures like a good steak, whiskey or wine.


Some brands refer to other marks such as UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) or brand-related ratings such as K-factor. NPA and MG is commonly used as well which is the same as MGO.

MGO is a very reactive compound and due to its unique chemical structure, it reacts with bacterial DNA and disrupts its structural integrity and function. Thus, it directly damages the formation of new bacterial cells. Okay I understand now but how much of the concentration is needed?

The potency of MGO can be expressed as MIC (Minimum Inhibition Concentration). MIC is defined as the minimum concentration of MGO required to inhibit 100% of bacterial growth. MGO is the most effective against the below bacteria and as well of the suggested MIC.

Escherichia Coli (ATCC 8739) – M.I.C is 220 mg/kg

Pathogenic E.Coli strains are responsible for infection of the enteric, urinary, and nervous systems. It is the most common foodborne illness-causing bacteria. Symptoms are diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and sometimes vomiting. It can be life-threatening in people with a weakened immune system.

Psudomonas aeruginosa – M.I.C is 310 mg/kg

It is the most common pathogen that causes severe infections including respiratory, urinary and it is a hospital-acquired infection. It is resistant to some antibiotics.

Staphylococcus aureus – M.I.C is 100 mg/kg

Staphylococcus aureusis the most dangerous of all the many common staphylococcal bacteria. These Gram-positive, sphere-shaped (coccal) bacteria often cause skin infections but can cause pneumonia, heart valve infections, and bone infections.

Staphylococcus aureus is present in the nose (usually temporarily) of about 30% of healthy adults and on the skin of about 20%. The percentages are higher for people who are patients in a hospital or those who work there.

The bacteria can spread from person to person by direct contact, through contaminated objects (such as gym equipment, telephones, doorknobs, television remote controls, or elevator buttons), or, less often, by inhalation of infected droplets dispersed by sneezing or coughing.

Streptococcus mutants – M.I.C is 150 mg/kg

It is found in the human oral cavity and is a significant contributor to tooth decay.

Streptococcus mutants are part of the “normal” flora of the human mouth, which is associated with dental caries also known as tooth decay. Dental caries is an infectious and communicable dental disease that affects people of all ages. Streptococcus mutants can be passed from one person to the next via horizontal or vertical transmission. The transmission route of Streptococcus mutants is to colonize itself among human hosts. Children and infants are more prone to the diagnosis of Streptococcus mutants and studies show that many receive it from their primary caregivers.

Candida albicans – M.I.C is 550 mg/kg

Candida albicans is the most prevalent cause of infections in people. It commonly lives in our bodies such as the GI tract, the mouth, and other body parts. It is the most common cause of urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Group A Streptococcus bacteria – M.I.C is 100 mg/kg

Nearly 40% of sore throat is caused by Streptococcus bacteria.

H.Pylori – M.I.C is 250 mg/kg

Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) are bacteria that infect the lining of the stomach. These bacteria can cause ulcer diseases duodenal ulcers. Gastric inflammation lead to ulcers and even gastric cancer. 

Would you like to learn more about Honey? Read our blog articles on the science behind Mānuka Honey by Sunil Pinnamaneni who has 15 years of experience in research & works daily with honey.

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