When Jennifer Eddy first saw an ulcer on the left foot of her patient, an elderly diabetic man, it was pink and quarter-sized. Fourteen months later, drug-resistant bacteria had made it an unrecognizable black mess.
Doctors tried everything they knew -- and failed. After five hospitalizations, four surgeries and regimens of antibiotics, the man had lost two toes. Doctors wanted to remove his entire foot.
"He preferred death to amputation, and everybody agreed he was going to die if he didn't get an amputation," said Eddy, a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
With standard techniques exhausted, Eddy turned to a treatment used by ancient Sumerian physicians, touted in the Talmud and praised by Hippocrates: honey. Eddy dressed the wounds in honey-soaked gauze. In just two weeks, her patient's ulcers started to heal. Pink flesh replaced black. A year later, he could walk again.
"I've used honey in a dozen cases since then," said Eddy. "I've yet to have one that didn't improve."
Eddy is one of many doctors to recently rediscover honey as medicine. Abandoned with the advent of antibiotics in the 1940s and subsequently disregarded as folk quackery, a growing set of clinical literature and dozens of glowing anecdotes now recommend it.
Most tantalizingly, honey seems capable of combating the growing scourge of drug-resistant wound infections, especially methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, the infamous flesh-eating strain. These have become alarmingly more common in recent years, with MRSA alone responsible for half of all skin infections treated in U.S. emergency rooms. So-called superbugs cause thousands of deaths and disfigurements every year, and public health officials are alarmed."
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