Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Prevent MRSA With Honey

A product now available on the NHS prevents MRSA, but why hasn't it received more publicity?

The latest Government figures claim that MRSA infections have fallen to their lowest since records began. Labour hailed this a 'turning point,' whilst the Conservatives have accused them of 'pre-election trickery.'

The tiresome political banter of our MP's is irrelevant if you or a loved one are going into hospital and have concerns about MRSA. National audit data from last year shows that 100,000 people contracted an infection whilst being treated in hospital, and of those, 5,000 people died.

The risks of MRSA are well publicised, but the same cannot be said for a preventative measure, now available on the NHS and over-the-counter.

UMF® Manuka Honey dressings kill MRSA - something many of our strongest antibiotics cannot do.

Professor Molan is one of the world’s leading authorities on the use of Manuka honey in wound care. He has conducted numerous clinical trials that document the success of Manuka Honey in killing MRSA and treating various other bacterial infections associated with open wounds and ulcers at New Zealand’s Waikato Hospital.

We spoke to Professor Molan to find out how these honey dressings work and what action patients can take to prevent MRSA.

"MRSA is basically an antibiotic-resistant form of a very common bacteria that lives on your skin and normally doesn't cause you any harm. Certainly, if it lands on an open wound it can cause an infection, but generally, your body can fight the infection itself."

"This antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria has bred itself to be so in response to our over-use of antibiotics. Some strains are resistant to all but one antibiotic and that has to be taken intravenously. In some cases, MRSA can even be resistant to that which is why it is potentially dangerous for people whose immune system isn't at its strongest, such as the elderly, infirm or those who have major surgery."

"In cases where they have stopped using antibiotics in hospitals, the infection rate decreases - so when hospitals frequently use antibiotics, they are just left with these resistant strains of bacteria."

Dr Molan has been conducting numerous clinical studies on the effectiveness of UMF® Manuka Honey against MRSA and its additional health benefits. UMF stands for 'Unique Manuka Factor,' an acronym chosen because of it's similarity to Sun Protection Factor (SPF) on sunscreen.

Although any honey can help treat burns or minor wounds, Manuka honey is the only honey with the ability to kill antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria because it contains a unique type of antibacterial activity.

"All honey, including Manuka honey, contains hydrogen peroxide which is produced when the bees add an enzyme to the nectar. Hydrogen peroxide is an acid, but because of the enzyme, it's produced continuously in the honey and at fairly low levels. This means the hydrogen peroxide can be effective against bacteria, but is not at high enough levels to cause harm to the tissues of the body."

"Manuka honey is special because it contains something that we still haven't identified, but which must come from the plant itself, because it's in no other honey, anywhere in New Zealand or Australia, or in any closely related species in the 'Jelly Bush', as we call it."

"What we do know is that different plants have different components in the nectar and some of these stabilise and destabilise that enzyme, so bees add different amounts of the enzyme to different nectars depending on how watery they are when they are harvested from the plant. They add more enzymes to the more watery nectars and that is why honey can vary one hundred fold in antibacterial qualities."

Dr Molan and his team have been amazed at the scope of bacteria Manuka honey is effective against, and its ability to heal ulcerated open wounds.

"First we conducted lots of laboratory tests which have shown it has such a broad spectrum of activity as an anti-microbial agent. It is effective on many different types of bacteria which antibiotics generally don't cover. There has also been work in New Zealand hospitals where people have had MRSA infections, and it has cleared up after treatment with Manuka honey dressings."

"Currently, there's a big trial running in New Zealand at the Waikato Hospital with open wounds and varicose ulcers on the lower leg. Usually, if wounds or ulcers do not heal after six weeks then they probably won't heal for many years. But we are finding that once Manuka Honey dressings are used, ulcers heal in a period of six to eight weeks, even though some people had had the ulcers many years."

"What’s more, many patients don't require any antibiotics, even those who had been taking them every couple of weeks before, over a period of several years."

Professor Molan wants to make sure that patients know they can ask for Manuka honey dressing on the NHS so that knowledge spreads about this potentially life-saving option.

"There are now honey products being sold as registered medicines so they have been proven by the Health Regulatory Division as medical products. This means the honey has to go through a sterilisation process so it can be safely used in hospital wards. The honey is heated to a high temperature for a matter of seconds and then pushed through a very fine filter, and cooled seconds later so it is completely free from any particles that can embed themselves in the wound, and so there is no chance of the honey carrying bacterium spores."

"The medical wound dressing is now a registered product on the NHS, so it is just a matter of asking or persuading the hospital to use them. This is the message I am trying to get through. If hospitals have a problem and routinely cover all surgical wounds with honey dressings, they will not be infected with MRSA. If honey is actually used on fresh surgical wounds they will also heal faster and without leaving a scar which is an important added benefit."

You can purchase UMF® Manuka Honey dressings over the counter. Comvita ApiNate Dressings cost £44.95 for pack of 3 10x10cm dressings and are available from the New Zealand Natural Food Company on 020 8961 4410.

Web Links

BBC News: MRSA -

Department Of Health Report On MRSA -

Government Table Of Worse Affected Hospitals & Figures -

Rachael Hannan: 2005

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