Honey has been used for its antibacterial properties for thousands of years, from ancient Greece to the battlefields of WWII, but its use in medicine declined considerably with the advent of modern antibiotic drugs. In the developing world, the increased use of chemical products to treat infected wounds can often translate into high cost and low availability.
More than that, diseases and infections across the globe are growing more and more resistant to antibiotic treatments. This necessitates more complex and more expensive treatments, which can be difficult in low-resource health environments. However, the healing powers of honey are making a comeback with a new product called Surgihoney.
The most potent form of medicinal honey comes from the nectar of a particular tree in New Zealand, but UK businessman Ian Staples has worked with a team of scientists to create a potent honey that can be made from any floral source, greatly improving supply.
Low-Tech and Cost Effective
This new honey, called Surgihoney, can speed up healing of trauma injuries and infected wounds that are usually difficult to treat. It kills the bacteria found in wounds without damaging the tissue, making it far less harsh than traditional wound dressings. Surgihoney is stored in 10g sachets and is simply squeezed onto wounds and then dressed with gauze. The honey also provides an effective moisture barrier between wound and gauze, meaning the gauze never sticks to the wound or causes trauma upon removal. It is ideal for treatment in the developing world because it is a low-technology, potentially cost-effective solution to a growing global health problem.
Pilot trials of Surgihoney have been conducted in Sodo Hospital in Ethiopia, and Kisubu Hospital in Uganda. In Uganda, it was used to treat a woman with a hand wound that was so badly infected that amputation was a possibility. Surgihoney was applied to her wound every other day and after 12 days, the infection was eliminated. After the wound had healed some more, she was able to return to her life as normal, instead of as an amputee with increased chances of marginalization.
Surgihoney was also tested in Yei Civil Hospital in South Sudan, and Vaiola Hospital in Tonga as a daily dressing for all wounds. Fifty wounds were treated in Sudan, and 12 were treated in Tonga, all of which showed improvement. The creators of Surgihoney hope that the successes of these pilot tests will allow for an even larger trial.
Ancient Technique, Modern Challenge
Antibiotic resistance has become increasingly present in the global agenda, but now scientists and doctors have found a way to take an ancient technique and apply it to a modern-day challenge. Surgihoney has the potential to become a wound care solution in parts of the world where resources are low and the need is high. It provides all the characteristics of an ideal wound treatment, including moisture protection and elimination of bacteria without damaging surrounding tissues.
While Surgihoney is not yet commercially available outside the UK and is still in the testing stages, the results have so far been very positive. The hope is to one day make this low-tech, easily replicated approach universally available.
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