By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter
Banana leaves are a cheap and effective alternative to traditional medical wound dressings, as long as they are effectively sterilized before use, show study findings published in Dermatologic Surgery.
The researchers believe that banana leaves could help fulfil the unmet need for inexpensive wound dressings in developing countries such as Uganda, where banana plants are common.
Emmanuella Guenova (University of Tuebingen, Germany) and colleagues assessed different sterilization methods and found that steam sterilization produced better results than other sterilization techniques, including immersion in iodine or boiling water, leading to almost complete eradication of mesophilic bacteria , compared with the reduction to between 2 and 100 colony forming units per 100 cm2 leaf achieved using the other techniques.
They then tested wound healing in mice and postsurgical Ugandan patients using a standard petroleum jelly gauze dressing versus a sterilized banana leaf dressing.
The team compared healing in mice 7 days after punch biopsy with both types of dressings. They found that wounds covered with both types of dressing healed at a similar rate.
Following the mouse study, 100 postsurgical patients had their wounds dressed using sterilized banana leaves. Patients were followed up at 24 hours, 7, and 14 days. Of those who completed follow up (43 of 100), none reported any problems or adverse events associated with use of the dressing.
The researchers explain that banana leaf dressings are 1500- and 5000-fold less expensive than collagen and biosynthetic dressings, respectively, making them a great option for countries that struggle to afford synthetic dressings and have an abundance of banana plants.
The team concedes that sterilization of banana leaves could be challenging in conditions of frequent power shortages, such as those frequently experienced in Uganda and other African countries. Nevertheless, they conclude that they are an "excellent alternative wound dressing, combining the desirable properties of modern wound-dressing material with low cost."
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