Manuka honey curbs bacterial growth on plastic and could help patients fitted with catheters who get infections, according to a new study released today.
The study has been published in the British Medical Journal and the Journal of Clinical Pathology and said about 100 million catheters were sold worldwide every year.
Researchers cultured two strains of bacteria on plastic plates in a laboratory and various dilutions of manuka honey were added at the same time.
Results showed that the manuka honey strongly inhibited the 'stickiness' of the bacteria and prevented a biofilm developing.
The greatest effect was seen after three days, where stickiness was reduced by nearly 80 percent.
The study's author, Bashir Lwaleed, an associate professor from the University of Southampton, said the antibacterial and anti-inflamatory properties of manuka honey were well known, but he wanted to take this a step further.
"We've shown that honey at very low concentrations, 3.3 percent, inhibits or prevents biofilm from forming."
It also restricted growth of bacteria after a biofilm has formed, said Dr Lwaleed.
"This really opens a wide kind of useage for honey dilutions to be used as flushing agents for all of these medical devices that are inserted into the body. For example catheters, gastric tubes etc."
Dr Lwaleed said over 12 years of research he had experimented with all types of honey.
"In this context we've mainly used manuka honey UMF 15, but what I can say is that for bacteria we found that dark honey works better to inhibit bacterial growth and biofilm formations and for inflamatory work we found that the light honey works better, and this is the eucalyptus."
The plan was to move now into checking the tolerance of honey in human bladders, said Dr Lwaleed.
"The majority of the people, with the exception of the spinal cord injury, that use urinary catheters will be at an old age and with recurrent infections and inflamations there is likely to be some irriation to the bladder wall.
"In terms of a bladder that is irritated there is the possibility of this stuff to leak into the circulation, so what we want to do is look at how well it is tolerated and also if sugar goes into the circulation will it cause hyperglycaemia."
Dr Lwaleed said the honey used in the research was from Comvita, but the study was not sponsored by them.