EAU CLAIRE, WI -- The sore on Catrina Hurlburt's leg simply wouldn't heal.
Complications from a 2002 car accident left Hurlburt, a borderline diabetic, with recurring cellulitis and staph infections. One of those infections developed into a troublesome open sore that, despite the use of oral antibiotics, continued to fester for nearly eight months.
Then Hurlburt's physician, Jennifer Eddy of UW Health's Eau Claire Family Medicine Clinic, suggested she try using topical honey.
Within a matter of months, the sore had healed completely.
"I remember thinking, holy mackerel-what a difference," says Hurlburt, who can't use topical antibiotics because of allergies. "It's a lot better than having to put oral antibiotics into your system."
With funding provided by the Wisconsin Partnership Fund for Health and the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation, Eddy is currently conducting the first randomized, double-blind controlled trial of honey for diabetic ulcers. Eddy first successfully used honey therapy a few years ago with a patient who was facing amputation after all medical options had been exhausted.
Experts believe that treating wounds with honey has tremendous potential for the approximately 200 million people in the world with diabetes, 15 percent of whom will develop an ulcer, usually because of impaired sensation in their feet.
Currently, every 30 seconds someone somewhere in the world undergoes amputation for a diabetic foot ulcer. In 2001, treating diabetic ulcers and amputations in U.S. patients cost $10.9 billion.
"Patients like Catrina Hurlburt are a great example of the potential health care savings," explains Eddy, who is also assistant professor of family medicine at University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. "Unsuccessful conventional care for ulcers can cost thousands of dollars. Therapy with honey may only cost a few hundred."