Saturday, November 6, 2010
Honey heals sea lion wounds
Marine Mammal Center newsletter:
Gupta was rescued on October 4, 2010, from Breakwater Cove, Monterey County, California. He had severe trauma to his back and flippers from a massive sharkbite. Doctors thought the shark must have come from below Gupta and to his left. Indeed, the shark must have had a pretty decent hold for a second or so in order to create such a severe wound. Gupta’s injuries consisted of major soft tissue loss over much of the left side of his chest, multiple lacerations and multiple puncture wounds in the left ‘armpit’. During the initial evaluation, Center staff sedated Gupta, took some radiographs and thoroughly evaluated the situation.
The good news was that no vital structures were damaged. The chest wall remained intact and there was no evidence of joint involvement. The bad news was that the massive soft tissue trauma left a lot of skin and muscle without a blood supply, and this area was in various stages of dying. The wound was infected and infested with fly larvae (maggots) and it required aggressive topical cleansing, removal of dead tissue and application of some sort of antimicrobial, antiseptic ointment. That’s when the idea of honey entered into the picture.
Honey has gained recent popularity in both human and veterinary medicine as a wound treatment due largely to its natural healing properties. It has a very high sugar content and as a result binds water molecules strongly. That makes the water unavailable to organisms trying to make a living in the area. This is why honey can be safely stored on the shelf without refrigeration. Honey also contains a variety of compounds that may enhance the tissue response to infection and inflammation. It’s less expensive than most topical antibiotic ointments and evidence suggests it is just as effective. So the Center’s staff and volunteers cleaned the wound and applied a generous layer of honey to it. Thanks to both the honey and the tincture of time, Gupta’s wounds healed very quickly. In fact, he was released on October 25 at Chimney Rock, Point Reyes National Shore, California.
Interested in learning more on this sticky topic? Here are two links to papers indicating the value of honey in medical treatments: