Tiny amounts of Manuka honey spread between layers of surgical mesh can be used to fight infection following surgery, researchers say.
Meshes are used to promote soft tissue healing after surgery and are commonly used in operations for hernias.
But there is an increased risk of infection as bacteria can get a hold inside the body by forming a biofilm on the mesh.
Such secondary infections have to be treated with antibiotics, but with some bugs becoming increasingly resistant, scientists have been looking for alternatives.
Honey has been used for its antibacterial properties for thousands of years because it naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, which acts as an antiseptic.
Manuka honey, which is made from nectar collected by bees that forage on the wild New Zealand Manuka tree, contains a second active ingredient, methylglyoxal, which has specific antimicrobial properties.
Researchers at Newcastle and Ulster universities have developed a way of sandwiching eight nano-layers of Manuka honey, with a negative charge, between eight layers of a positively charged polymer.
They showed it was possible to create an electrostatic nanocoating on the mesh which in the lab inhibits bacteria for up to three weeks as the honey is slowly released.
Publishing their findings in the journal Frontiers, the team claimed the study highlights the potential benefits of infusing medical implants with honey.
Dr Piergiorgio Gentile, lead author and a biomedical engineer at Newcastle University, said: Mesh is implanted inside the body to provide stability while the internal tissues heal but, unfortunately, it also provides the perfect surface for bacteria to grow on.
Once the bacteria form a biofilm on the surface, it’s very difficult to treat the infection.
By sandwiching the honey in a multilayer coating on the mesh surface and slowly releasing it, the aim is to inhibit the growth of the bacteria and stop the infection before it even starts.
These results are really very exciting.
Honey has been used to treat infected wounds for thousands of years but this is the first time it has been shown to be effective at fighting infection in cells from inside the body.
(c) Sky News 2019: Sweet success: Hi-tech honey ‘sandwiches’ used to fight superbug infections