Friday, 22 June 2012

Manuka honey in Medicine Part 2

Professor Peter Molan, Honey Research Unit, University of Waikato in New Zealand, looks at the use of manuka honey as a medicine.

A large amount of clinical experience has shown that manuka honey, selected to have a high level of this unique antibacterial activity, gives rapid clearance of infection from heavily infected wounds not responding to other treatment, and gives rapid healing of chronic wounds not responding to any other treatment.

Many case reports from this work have been published, including a small pilot trial. A very large multi-centre, randomised, controlled clinical trial of many honey dressings on leg ulcers, funded by the New Zealand Government, has nearly been completed (see

In view of this evidence for the effectiveness of honey in healing infected wounds, and that from several randomised, controlled trials demonstrating that honey protects burns from becoming infected, it has been proposed that honey be used prophylacticly on hospital patients at risk of acquiring infection through 'superbugs'.

Many laboratory studies have shown that manuka honey has a potent antibacterial action against MRSA, VRE, ESBL strains of various species, Acinetobacter baumannii, Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, and other species such as Pseudomonads and coagulase-negative Staphylococci that are difficult to control because of antibiotic resistance.

The most common routes of infection for these bacteria, leading to fatal septicaemia in patients with a weakened immune system, are open wounds and where catheters are inserted into the body. The two trials that have been conducted to test the effectiveness of honey in preventing infection of catheter exit sites have given positive results. This proposal has been tried at Waikato Hospital in New Zealand in a ward with a history of recurrent outbreaks of MRSA infection.

Manuka honey dressings have been used on all at-risk patients and there have been no cases of MRSA infection since. Whilst this does not constitute proof of the idea, it does indicate that it warrants further trial.

The Department of Health in the UK has been approached with this information as a proposal for dealing with the national problem of hospital acquired infection, but has rejected it on the grounds that manuka honey dressings are not registered specifically for treating infection with MRSA.

This is not likely to happen before many more hospital patients die, because the companies involved in marketing honey for medical use are not large enough to be able to afford the high costs involved in getting such registration unless the clinical trials needed are publicly funded.

Manuka UMF honey

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