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UK trial investigates sugar dressings for wound care

Granulated sugar is being assessed as a treatment for wounds such as pressure ulcers in a trial at a hospital in Birmingham.

Zimbabwean Moses Murandu, a senior lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton, watched his father using sugar to speed up healing and manage pain when he was growing up. But when he left Zimbabwe for the UK, he discovered the practice was not carried out by medical professionals in this country.

He is now leading research to see if sugar can help patients in hospitals who have wounds. Alan Bayliss is one of the patients who has received sugar treatment during the trial.

In January this year his right leg was amputated above the knee at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham after he suffered from an ulcer. Surgeons also removed a vein from his left leg, leaving a cavity wound, which failed to heal well.

An inpatient at the amputee rehabilitation ward at Moseley Hall Hospital - part of Birmingham Community Healthcare Trust - the 62-year-old had been given normal dressings. But concerned nurses who saw the wound was not healing, asked to try the sugar treatment on him.

A fortnight after the sugar started to be applied, the patient’s wound was much smaller and was healing effectively.

Mr Bayliss, an electrical engineer from Northfield in Birmingham, described the treatment as “revolutionary”.

He said initially Mr Murandu had used a large amount of sugar for the dressing, although the amount needed reduced over the two-week period to around five teaspoons.

Mr Bayliss admitted that he had been unconvinced sugar would help him when he first learnt about the treatment. But he said he had been impressed by how much it had accelerated his recovery.

Staff Nurse Jonathan Janneman said the sugar treatment had raised the patient’s spirits and boosted his morale. He added: “The patient is ecstatic with the results.”

Readers' comments (11)

  • I was using sugar paste in the early nineteen eighties for bed sores in care of elderly. I remember a meeting with surgeons to try to stop them using Eusol (Edinburgh Universal Solution?) and move to sugar. Eusol was best for cleaning bedpans, not healing wounds! I'm ashamed to say I was not persuasive enough that time. There was great support from pharmacy and the director of nursing and there was research evidence but we got bumped!

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  • Tiger Girl

    Considering how many people believe that honey can heal wounds, and honey is mainly a concentrated sugar solution, the possibility that sugar could work is an obvious one.

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  • As an older person I can remember having soft green soap mixed with sugar to treat boils during the 60s. It seemed to work but who knows what else would
    Susie

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  • Good luck with the trial. Lets hope it proves successful on more patients.

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  • When reporting clinical trials in progress it would be good practice in a professional journal (in my view) to cite the UK clinical trials gateway and/or clinicaltrials.gov weblink - or at the least the trial registration number. This trial can be found at: http://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT01716273
    The investigators have already conducted and published an in vitro pilot of different types of sugar in order to develop the protocol for this trial. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21647066
    It looks to be PhD research and I think it is great that a nurse is undertaking what seems to be a well planned and thought out clinical trial.

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  • oh! dear! this is not reserch this is history how old is this person?any way brown sugar works best?

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  • Anonymous | 28-Feb-2013 9:24 am

    sometimes it is the old and simpler treatments which work best and are often much cheaper. why not research them and if they still prove effective revive them?

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  • Yes, I believe Moses Murandu, when I was growing my couldn't afford to take us to hospital or doctor and for any scraps, cuts, sores, she would wash with warm salty water, used to use brown sugar on the wounds that used to fix it.
    Well, that time I used to think because were so poor that's what my mum could afford

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  • Yes, I believe Moses Murandu, when I was growing up my mum couldn't afford to take us to hospital or doctor and for any scraps, cuts, sores, she would wash wound/s with warm salty water and used to use brown sugar on the wounds that used to fix it.
    Well, that time I used to think Oh! because were so poor that's what my mum could afford. Never thought much of it. Well done Moses.

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  • we would use them but!!!! we can only use what we are told regardless of the price that is why the the is so much waste?

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  • Anonymous | 1-Mar-2013 7:35 am

    funny, before I scrolled down to your comment I was just thinking of writing that if all these cuts continue we will all be going back to these simple remedies. there may be more effective too and radically cut down on iatrogenesis which must also the health services huge sums of money!
    Maybe this should also be further investigated.

    our ward manager once went to the kitchens to get vinegar and made vinegar booties for a hyperpyrexic patient. It worked although one does not know whether other factors also helped bring down the temperature. Her team were highly sceptic and then duly impressed at what she had learned from her grandmother despite all of her training. Potato or quark compresses on the chest are also favoured and very soothing remedies.

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