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16-02-2012 | Article

Honey could help treat and prevent infected wounds


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MedWire News: Manuka honey, already widely touted for its health-giving properties, could help treat and prevent skin and wound infections, shows research.

Manuka honey is produced by bees that feed on the manuka tree, native to New Zealand and Australia. Some varieties of manuka honey are rich in an antiseptic compound called ormethylglyoxal, and these are being studied for their potential medicinal properties.

In the latest research, Dr Sarah Maddocks (Cardiff Metropolitan University, UK) and colleagues tested whether manuka honey could be used to treat skin wounds that have become infected.

They were particularly interested in a bacterium called Streptococcus pyogenes, which is frequently found on normal healthy skin. However, when the skin becomes cut or damaged, S. pyogenes bacteria can infect the wound and form troublesome clumps or "biofilms," which can be difficult to treat.

In particular, traditional antibiotic drugs are not very good at penetrating infected wounds, and several strains of bacteria have become resistant to standard drugs.

In the laboratory, Dr Maddocks' group grew S. pyogenes bacteria in petri dishes, and then added small amounts of manuka honey.

Reporting their findings in Microbiology journal, they say that manuka honey was effective at killing S. pyogenes bacteria. It also helped stop the bacteria forming biofilms - which could potentially minimize the development of acute wound infections and also the establishment of longstanding infections.

Dr Maddocks' team now plans to test the ability of manuka honey to kill other wound-dwelling bacteria, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and the notorious methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Commenting on the findings, Dr Maddocks said: "There is an urgent need to find innovative and effective ways of controlling wound infections that are unlikely to contribute to increased antimicrobial resistance. No instances of honey-resistant bacteria have been reported to date, or seem likely.

She added: "Applying antibacterial agents directly to the skin to clear bacteria from wounds is cheaper than systemic antibiotics and may well complement antibiotic therapy in the future. This is significant as chronic wounds account for up to 4% of health care expenses in the developed world."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Joanna Lyford