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Medicinal honey in clinical practice: viable alternative or useful adjunct in wound care management?

27 June 2019
Volume 28 · Issue 12


In light of concerns raised about antimicrobial resistance, especially in hospitals, and the rise in bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics scientists are examining alternative sources and strategies to combat infection. Among the plethora of complementary medicines now being considered is honey, particularly manuka honey. Medicinal honey is a relatively new label given to some types of honey that have been shown to be effective antimicrobial agents in in vitro studies. Large-scale clinical trials are yet to be conducted but there is considerable interest and numerous case studies that demonstrate the benefits of medicinal honey, especially in wound healing.

The use of honey in modern healthcare stems from its use as a medicine throughout human history. Given the emerging crisis of antimicrobial resistance, it has become imperative to explore other potentially effective alternatives that have probably not been considered before in mainstream practice. According to the World Health Organization (2018), antimicrobial resistance is a major global public health threat, limiting and often negating the prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections.

The scale of the problem is such that infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria claim at least 50 000 lives each year in Europe and the USA, and 700 000 lives globally. These figures are expected to rise dramatically over the next 30 years (House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee, 2018). Global mortality from antimicrobial resistance is anticipated to reach 10 million per year by 2050. This would be a greater death toll than those from cancer and diabetes combined (Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, 2015). Resistance rates in key infectious bacteria including Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumonia, K. oxytoca and Pseudomonas spp have increased over 2012–2016 (Public Health England, 2018). This trend is illustrated in Figure 1 (House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee, 2018).

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