Bandage soaked in vinegar to heal burns
ASPLASH of vinegar could help stop wound infections and speed up their healing. UK researchers have discovered that acetic acid, the main component of vinegar, can kill more than two dozen different forms of bacteria linked to infections, and it is now being used in an NHS trial in patients with burns.
Low concentrations of acetic acid may be a useful alternative for health workers to use instead of rub-on antibiotics, say the researchers.
Like many wounds, burns are vulnerable to becoming infected because of the loss of the normal skin barrier. Bacteria on the patient’s own skin can be transferred to wounds easily, where they quickly grow and reproduce into large colonies. this bacterial build-up can cause delayed healing, scarring and infections.
If untreated this can lead to serious infections and even sepsis, a life-threatening reaction that arises from the body’s response to an infection. Sepsis is a leading cause of death among patients with burns.
Infections of burn wounds are difficult to treat with traditional oral and rub-on antibiotics as they do not reach the skin’s surface effectively, and resistance to these drugs is growing. B ACTERIA which get in chronic wounds and burns can also enclose themselves in a slime or biofilm, where they clump together on a surface and become more resistant to treatment.
around 130,000 people with burns visit a&e each year.
Vinegar, which consists mainly of acetic acid and water, has been used for thousands of years as a traditional remedy to clean wounds and stop the spread of infections, but it has not been subject to the rigorous assessment of clinical trials.
now doctors at Queen elizabeth hospital Birmingham are using acetic acid on patients admitted to hospital with serious burns. the trial follows research by the University of Birmingham last year which showed that low concentrations of acetic acid could kill bacteria and stop them growing.
During the research common wound-infecting bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus and e.coli, were exposed to low concentrations of acetic acid in a laboratory. the results showed that the acid was able to inhibit the growth of all 29 strains, and prevent them forming biofilms.
In the new trial, 20 patients will have their burns treated with a standard dressing soaked in one of two concentrations of the acid. the dressings will be changed twice a day for five days, and the levels of bacteria and rates of healing will be monitored.
Vinegars contain natural acids called polyphenols and browncoloured chemicals called melanoidins, which are thought to kill harmful bacteria. however, people should not self-apply vinegar to wounds as it can damage the skin in certain concentrations: acetic acid treatment is only used under medical supervision in cases where infection can become a problem.
Dr Bav Shergill, a consultant dermatologist at Queen Victoria hospital in east grinstead, says of the findings: ‘this research looks really interesting and could support our efforts against bacterial infections.’
MEANWHILE, tissue derived from donated placenta can reduce bacterial infections and speed up wound healing, according to research published in the Journal of Functional Biomaterials.
In a study by Rutgers University in the U.S., frozen amniotic membrane — the innermost layer of the placenta — was used as a dressing.
Results showed it was 97 per cent more effective than a standard dressing at preventing the bacteria forming a sticky biofilm that allows them to survive.
It’s thought that the placental tissue releases factors that inhibit biofilm formation, the researchers said.