DOST develops wound dressing from honey

Experts from the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (PNRIDOST) have developed an effective wound dressing from local honey sources in the Philippines. Taking advantage of the antimicrobial properties of these local, readily available products, the DOST-PNRI experts produced a cheaper and comparable alternative—if not a better one—to antibiotics for treating exudating (leaking blood or fluids) wounds and burns.

“Honey has, since ancient days, been used for medicinal purposes. Its composition makes it a very effective agent for healing wounds,” said Biomedical Research Section Head Zenaida De Guzman.

According to De Guzman, honey is ideal as a wound dressing not only for its antimicrobial and potentially anti-inflammatory composition, but also for its low pH level, which is suitable for fast healing.

Its sugar content helps in the granulation of wounds, while its low moisture gives honey a longer shelf life. In addition, honey’s low water activity helps the dressing draw out water and pus, thereby drying the wound and reducing the chances of infection.

Among the samples obtained from the University of the Philippines Los Baños, three indigenous types of honey stood out: the pineapple flower honey from Bacolod, which proved comparable to the average antibiotic; the scarce coconut honey from Mindanao; and the natural dark honey found in the highlands of Northern Luzon The latter two matched, and at times even bested, antibiotics in dealing with pathogens such as Staphylococus aureus.

As they are readily available, these honey samples provided the material for the research section’s honey dressings.

Results from initial testing in rabbits showed that the dressing healed wounds in around the same time as the generic Neomycin. In some cases, the honey treatment took effect a day ahead of the antibiotic.

Pre-clinical testing conducted in a government hospital showed that with the use of honey dressing, full treatment of a burn patient was achieved a month earlier than the usual healing time.

Sodium alginate made from brown algae, already used by hospitals for dressings, serves as a base for the honey treatment. They are mixed and molded into a gauze before being sprayed with calcium chloride to bind them.

After being cured, dried, and packaged in vacuum-packed aluminum foil, the dressing is irradiated at 25 kilogray at PNRI’s Multipurpose Irradiation Facility to keep it microbe-free and make it longer lasting.

The Biomedical Research Section applied for the honey dressing’s patent last year and hopes to eventually finish the clinical tests. De Guzman expects the product’s commercialization to begin by 2015.

This appeared without a byline in Agriculture Monthly’s April 2014 issue.

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