Medical grade honey is not the antibacterial agent that clinicians thought it might be, according to a new study.
It was hoped that honey would offer a better alternative to antibiotics for patients undergoing peritoneal dialysis - a procedure used to clean the blood in patients with kidney failure.
More than 200 000 patients around the world undergo the treatment each year, although further uptake of the procedure has been limited due to the risks of infection.
Such infection can have life-threatening consequences, and although it is usually treated with antibiotics, the types of antibiotics that are suitable for use in these circumstances are effective against only a narrow range of infections, and are increasingly contributing to antibiotic resistance.
Honey was touted as an effective alternative to antibiotics, but Australian researchers have quashed these hopes.
Applying medical grade honey - produced by comprehensively sterilising standard honey - to wound sites in patients undergoing peritoneal dialysis, they found it shows no advantages over standard antibiotic use.
There was no significant difference between the average time to first infection in the honey or control groups. Patients in the honey group had an average of 16 months until their first infection, while patients in the control group had an average of 17-7 months.
Although the time to first infection for patients with diabetes was significantly reduced in the honey group to an average of 11.6 months, the risk of peritonitis 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,” commented professor David Johnson at the Australasian Kidney Trials Network. “Our results suggest that honey cannot be routinely recommended for the prevention of infections related to peritoneal dialysis.”
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