touted as an effective germ-killer, offered no advantages over antibiotics in
preventing wound infection in patients receiving peritoneal dialysis for kidney
failure, a study said Wednesday.
Over the last decade, honey
has gained a reputation as a cheap, safe and effective way of preventing wound
infection by bacteria and fungi, even combating germs that are becoming
resistant to antibiotics.
This boosted hopes that it
could be used for patients undergoing peritoneal dialysis to clean their blood
after suffering kidney failure.
Peritoneal dialysis – used
by more than 200 000 people daily – entails inserting a catheter in the
peritoneum, the thin membrane that surrounds the organs in the abdomen.
The treatment is
life-saving, but prone to dangerous infection either at the entry point on the
skin or in the peritoneum.
In a study published in The
Lancet Infectious Diseases, doctors in Australia and New Zealand tested
medical-grade honey – honey that has been sterilised for medical use – in a
group of 371 volunteers.
Half of the group were
given a daily application of 10 milligrams of honey on the site of the catheter
insertion, alongside standard wound care.
The other half were
assigned to a "control", or comparison group.
They were given nasal swabs
to test for the presence of the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, and given the
antibiotic mupirocin if this proved positive, and just standard wound care if
the test proved negative.
No significant difference
The researchers found no
significant difference in the risk of wound infection between the two groups.
Patients in the honey group
had an average of 16 months until their first infection, and patients in the
control group had an average of 17.7 months.
But there was disappointing
news that came from patients with diabetes.
Among this sub-group, the
time to first infection was much faster – 11.6 months on average – and the
risk of peritonitis – inflammation of the peritoneum – was almost twice as
high compared to patients with diabetes in the control group.
"While the fact that
honey doesn't contribute to antibacterial resistance makes it an attractive
option for preventing infection at wound sites, our results suggest that honey
cannot be routinely recommended for the prevention of infections related to
peritoneal dialysis," concluded Professor David Johnson at the
Australasian Kidney Trials Network at the University of Queensland.
Johnson also reported a
high rate of withdrawal from the study in the honey group.
"This suggests that
patients may have found the daily application of honey to the wound site
uncomfortable or inconvenient," he said.