• 7/6/2006
  • Manchester, Egland
  • Robbie MacDonald
  • South Manchester Reporter (www.southmanchesterreporter.co.uk)

The ancient Egyptians believed it was a cure-all. Scots mix it with whisky for medicinal ‘hot toddies’. And Winnie the Pooh loved the stuff.

Now in south Manchester, honey is being used to protect mouth and throat cancer patients from the MRSA superbug and other infections which are resistant to anti-biotics.

In a worldwide first, the Christie Hospital is researching the powers of New Zealand honey to help mouth and throat cancer patients’ recover after surgery.

Some of honey’s healing powers have been known for many years.

For example, it can help scars and wounds, or be put on dressings. Nurses at Manchester Royal Infirmary have been using special honey coated dressings for the last two months.

But the Christie work is unique.

Survival rates for people suffering from throat and mouth cancer have improved over the last 15 years, thanks to doctors more effectively combining surgery with chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments.

An unfortunate side-effect, however is a condition called mucositis, which is an inflammation and infection of the lining tissue inside patients’ mouths and throats.

The ongoing study is looking at whether manuka honey from New Zealand can reduce this inflammation and prevent infection.

Sixty patients there have taken part in the study so far – and final results are expected in about 12 months.

Specialist Dr Nick Slevin is leading the study and said: “Manuka honey has special anti-inflammatory and anti-infection properties, and is believed to reduce the likelihood of MRSA infection. We’ve had 400 kilograms of honey shipped here from New Zealand.”

Bees produce the honey from the manuka bush. Small jars can cost around £12 in health shops but Christie is buying in bulk.

The hospital’s head and neck cancer team is undertaking many important studies into treatment and care. But the work is totally reliant on donations for the research.

Dr Slevin, who lives in Didsbury, added: “This study has been generously funded by local people and patients, and we are extremely grateful to them.”

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