Africa / Middle East

Researchers Turn to Olive Oil to Help Reduce Maternal Deaths in Uganda

Mbarara University of Science and Technology researchers are testing a wound dressing with olive oil and honey.

Jul. 23, 2018
By Lisa Anderson

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Researchers at Mbarara Uni­ver­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy (MUST), near Kam­pala, Uganda are test­ing an olive oil and honey wound dress­ing in an attempt to reduce mater­nal deaths fol­low­ing Cae­sarean deliv­er­ies.

I have seen many moth­ers suf­fer and die from sep­sis; espe­cially sur­gi­cal site infec­tion fol­low­ing Cae­sarean sec­tion.- Joseph Ngonzi, Mbarara Uni­ver­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy

MUST Depart­ment of Obstet­rics and Gyne­col­ogy senior lec­turer and researcher Joseph Ngonzi has designed and is test­ing the dress­ing, called I‑Dress, in Ugan­dan hos­pi­tals.

Ngonzi’s I‑Dress is one of 100 new ideas funded by Cana­dian-based NGO Grand Chal­lenges Canada in an attempt to address con­tin­u­ous chal­lenges in women and chil­dren’s health in devel­op­ing coun­tries.

These projects are finan­cially sup­ported by the Gov­ern­ment of Canada through Global Affairs Canada. Each of the 100 projects will receive a seed grant of 100,000 CAD (76,142 USD).

Ngonzi told Olive Oil Times: We are cur­rently devel­op­ing the final prod­uct, where the gauze will be embed­ded with honey and olive oil and made ster­ile by radi­a­tion, and then test the prod­uct on women who have had Cae­sarean sec­tions in three hos­pi­tals.


We are also plan­ning to do an accept­abil­ity and fea­si­bil­ity study among the clin­i­cians about the prod­uct.

Puer­peral sep­sis is the lead­ing cause of mater­nal deaths at our hos­pi­tal, con­tribut­ing 31 per­cent. As an obste­tri­cian and gyne­col­o­gist, I have seen many moth­ers suf­fer and die from sep­sis; espe­cially sur­gi­cal site infec­tion fol­low­ing Cae­sarean sec­tion,” he said.

Accord­ing to research released by Ngonzi ear­lier this year, puer­peral sep­sis causes 10 per­cent of mater­nal deaths in Africa.

Explain­ing how I‑Dress was devel­oped, Ngonzi told Olive Oil Times: The phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal treat­ment is very expen­sive. We thought of locally avail­able options and mate­ri­als, and found out that gauze embed­ded with honey and olive oil has antimi­cro­bial abil­ity to cause heal­ing in infected wounds.”

Accord­ing to research released by the Cross-Cul­tural Foun­da­tion of Uganda (CCFU) — an accred­ited NGO to the UNESCO Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Com­mit­tee for the Safe­guard­ing of Intan­gi­ble Cul­tural Her­itage and mem­ber of the Inter­na­tional National Trusts Organ­i­sa­tion (INTO) — more than 60 per­cent of Uganda’s pop­u­la­tion depends on tra­di­tional med­i­cine due to acces­si­bil­ity, afford­abil­ity and cul­tural famil­iar­ity.

CCFU found there was approx­i­mately one tra­di­tional health prac­ti­tioner for every 200 to 400 Ugan­dans, com­pared to one west­ern-trained doc­tor per 20,000, and that herbal med­i­cine had long been used to man­age a range of com­mon con­di­tions.

Ngonzi agreed: Ugan­dans’ atti­tude towards nat­ural reme­dies is pos­i­tive and a num­ber of them use nat­ural reme­dies in treat­ing a cou­ple of ail­ments.

I strongly agree that nat­ural reme­dies are pre­ferred to phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal treat­ments by many doc­tors,” he said. I believe that nat­ural prod­ucts or reme­dies are read­ily avail­able and cheaper, though proof of con­cept for their effec­tive­ness is required.”

I‑Dress has been found to be effec­tive in ani­mal spec­i­mens, Ngonzi added.

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