According to a recent paper published in the European Journal of Clinical Microbiological Infectious Diseases, a certain kind of honey can be an effective agent in topical wound care, particularly where antibiotic resistance is an issue. The irony is that this most exciting new treatment has been around since the dawn of history—honey was first used as a first aid treatment 4,000 years ago in Egypt.
The paper, “The unusual antibacterial activity of medical-grade Leptospermum honey: antibacterial spectrum, resistance and transcriptome analysis,” describes the palliative effects of Leptospermum honey, a particular kind of honey indigenous to New Zealand and Australia. Leptospermum honey has been shown to possess unique plant derived components that make it an ideal wound dressing, including novel antimicrobial and immune-modulatory compounds. In addition, the honey has several properties that also aid in wound healing. Among these properties are the honey’s low pH levels, its ability to help remove non-vital tissue from the wound area, the stimulation of new tissue growth, and reported reduction in scarring and pain levels. What is also key is that all these benefits exist without any toxicity to healthy tissue. “There is an urgent need for new, effective agents in topical wound care,” the report begins, “and selected honeys show potential in this regard.”
The paper also describes how medical-grade honey might be a strong combatant against antibiotic resistant pathogens such as MRSA and vancomycin-resistant strains (VRS). “Staphylococcus aureus is one of the most commonly acquired pathogens in both the community and the hospital settings, and it is particularly problematic in skin and wound infections. The emergence of methicillin resistant S. aureus (MRSA), and, more recently, vancomycin-resistant strains, has seriously compromised treatment options,” the report states. “Multi-drug resistance limits treatment options and results in the use of more expensive or more toxic drugs, with corresponding increases in patient morbidity and mortality. . . The current issues surrounding antibiotic resistance, and a growing body of evidence supporting the use of honey as a dressing for a wide range of wounds, has increased interest in its use in the clinic.”
MEDIHONEY dressings, a unique line of products containing active Leptospermum honey, provide a moist, occlusive environment conducive to optimal wound healing and contain a high percentage of honey, enabling them to work effectively in the presence of wound fluid, blood, and tissue, promoting an optimal healing environment. Available in dressings and gel form, MEDIHONEY products, leading brand of Princeton, New Jersey-based Derma Sciences Inc., are indicated for the management of lightly to heavily exuding wounds such as: Diabetic foot ulcers, venous stasis leg ulcers, arterial leg ulcers, leg ulcers of mixed etiology, pressure ulcers (I-IV), first and second degree burns, donor sites, traumatic and surgical wounds.
“The paper also shows that MEDIHONEY is effective against antibiotic resistant strains,” says Edward J. Quilty, chairman and CEO of Derma Sciences Inc. “Although this has been demonstrated before, this article does a great job of showing that not only is it effective against these strains, but that the same amount of MEDIHONEY is necessary for the non-resistant strains as is required for the resistant strains. This is unusual, as more antibiotic or antimicrobial is typically necessary for the antibiotic resistant strains.”
The paper also demonstrates that use of MEDIHONEY at sub-lethal levels (levels too low to kill bacteria) does not induce resistance. This is unusual because this is precisely what causes resistant strains to form after sub-lethal antibiotic / antimicrobial concentration exposure. Further, a gene expression analysis was undertaken to see if MEDIHONEY’s effect was different than that of traditional antibiotics. The conclusion was “when compared to the published data on the effects of various antibiotics on the gene expression of E. coli, active Leptospermum honey produced a unique expression signature, suggesting that it works by a different mode of action to the other inhibitors.”
“The data presented here argue for a greater use of medicinal-grade honey in wound care, particularly where antibiotic resistance is an issue,” the paper concludes. “Our study suggests that it is unlikely that resistance to honey will develop, even with increased use. . . The gene expression signature of E. coli cells exposed to active Leptospermum honey indicates that it has a mode of action that is distinct from conventional antibiotics. Further investigations into the mode of action of the non-peroxide antibacterial activity of this honey are warranted, as these may lead to new classes of antimicrobials, which are desperately needed.”