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As a child who grew up in poverty in rural Eastern Zimbabwe, Moses Marandu was used to literally rubbing salt on wounds when he fell and cut himself.
On lucky days, his father had enough money to buy something that would sting the child less than salt: sugar.
Murandu always noticed that sugar seemed to help heal wounds faster than not using any treatment.
So, after being recruited to work as a nurse in the British health system (NHS), in 1997, he was surprised when he discovered that sugar was not used in any official facility. He decided to try to change this.
Your idea is finally being taken seriously. As a lecturer on adult care at the University of Wolverhampton, Murandu completed an initial pilot study focused on the uses of sugar for wound healing, and in March 2018 he won an award from the Journal of Wound Care (Journal of Wound Care) for their work.
In some parts of the world, this procedure could be key people who can not afford antibiotics . But there is also interest in the United Kingdom, since once a wound becomes infected, it sometimes does not respond to antibiotics.
To treat a wound in this way, all you have to do, says Marandu, is to put sugar in it and apply a bandage on top. The granules absorb moisture that allows the development of bacteria. Without bacteria, the wound heals faster .
The evidence of all this was discovered thanks to Murandu’s tests in the laboratory. And a growing collection of case studies from around the world supports their findings, including examples of successful sugar treatments on antibiotic-resistant wounds.
Funding for future research could help Murandu achieve his ultimate goal: to convince the NHS to use sugar as an alternative to antibiotics .
But a large part of medical research is financed by pharmaceutical companies. And these companies, he says, have little to gain from paying for research on something they can not patent.
The sugar used by Murandu is the simple, granular type that you could use to sweeten your coffee or tea. In the same in vitro tests , he found that there were no differences when using sugar cane or beet. The unrefined brown sugar, on the other hand, was not as effective.
The pilot test showed that some strains of bacteria grew in low concentrations of sugar, but these were completely inhibited in high concentrations. Murandu started recording case studies in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Lesotho (where he trained for the first time as a nurse). Among these cases is that of a woman from Harare.
“The woman’s foot had been measured, it was ready to be amputated, when my nephew called me,” said Murandu. “She had had a terrible wound for five years and the doctor wanted to amputate, I told her to wash the wound, apply sugar, leave it and repeat it.”
“The woman still has her leg.”
This, he says, is an example of why there is so much interest in his methods, particularly in parts of the world where people can not afford antibiotics .
Murandu has so far conducted clinical trials in 41 patients in the United Kingdom. He has not yet published the results of the tests, but he has presented them at national and international conferences.
One question he had to answer during his research was whether sugar could be used in diabetic patients, who commonly suffer ulcers in the legs and feet. Diabetics need to control the level of glucose in their blood so this is not an obvious method of healing for them.
But he discovered that it worked for diabetics without triggering their glucose levels: “Sugar is sucrose and you need the enzyme sucrase to convert it into glucose.”
As sucrose is found in the body, only when it is absorbed does the sugar become. Applying it on the outside of the wound will not affect it in the same way.
Treatment for animals
While Murandu continues his research on patients across the Atlantic, US veterinarian Maureen McMichael has used this method of animal healing for years.
McMichael, of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at the University of Illinois, first began using sugar and honey to treat pets in 2002.
What attracted him was a combination of the simplicity of the method and the low cost, especially for pet owners who could not afford the usual method of taking the animal to the hospital and using sedatives.
McMichael says they still have sugar and honey in the office and that they often use them in dogs and cats (and occasionally in farm animals). Honey has healing properties similar to those of sugar (one study even found that it is more effective in inhibiting the growth of bacteria), although it is more expensive.
“We’ve had some really big successes with this,” McMichael said. He gave as an example the case of a street dog that came to them after being used as “bait”, hanging from a harness and being attacked by trained pit bulls to fight. The dog arrived with more than 40 bites in each limb and was cured in eight weeks.
“It was from the street, so there was no money for her, we treated her with honey and sugar and she reacted brilliantly,” said McMichael. “Now she’s totally cured.”
In addition to being cheaper, sugar has another point in favor : the more antibiotics we use, the more resistant we become to them.
Murandu’s plan is to open a private clinic using his sugar method . He hopes that one day sugar will be used commonly, not only by the NHS, but by public hospitals in other countries where he has worked.
He continues to receive regular mail from around the world asking for advice and guidance to patients remotely. Your most distant clients send you photos of your results along with a thank you when they have been cured.
It is an old method, used unofficially by poor people in developing countries, but it was not until he arrived in the UK that Murandu realized the importance that sugar could have in the medical world.
He sees it as a mixture of his local knowledge with modern British research facilities .
“Like sugar, knowledge came pure from Zimbabwe, it was refined here, and now it goes back to help people in Africa.”