As I mentioned in my post on Agave Nectar the other day, Jane and I allow the use of honey in our definition of what it means to be vegan.
Many vegans, however, are not opposed to using insect products, because they do not believe insects are conscious of pain. Moreover, even if insects were conscious of pain, it’s not clear that the production of honey involves any more pain for insects than the production of most vegetables, since the harvesting and transportation of all vegetables involves many ‘collateral’ insect deaths.
— from Vegan Action
Today I found an article on MSNBCs website, dated December 26, 2007 indicating that honey is being used in topical antibiotics, specifically in bandages and wound dressings. Using honey to treat wounds is something that goes back to ancient times. The science behind the usage of honey is rather interesting. Honey produces hydrogen peroxide when combined with the fluid which drains from a wound (isn’t nature amazing!). It also draws the pus and fluid from the wound, thereby speeding the healing process.
What’s got everyone buzzing (sorry) is that a particular type of honey found in New Zealand, Manuka honey, seems to be able to prevent the development of multiple-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in open wounds. MRSA is a bacterium responsible for difficult-to-treat infections in humans (from wikipedia). This is particularly exciting since MRSA is one of those resistant superbugs we hear so much about.
Currently the bandages, produced by Derma Sciences under the label Medihoney, are available in hospitals in the US and Canada. The Derma Sciences dressings will be available in drug stores in the next six months, with adhesive strips following closely, if all goes according to plan. Similar products have been popular in Europe, Australia and New Zealand for the last decade.
As for whether these bandages/dressings meet your criteria for being vegan, that is up to you. Better to be forewarned… If you abstain from the consumption of honey, you should be aware that your bandages and wound dressings may not fit your definition of vegan.