International report — Mix salt and water and you get saltwater, which has long been thought to have healing properties. Put the ingredients through an electrolysis process to kick a single oxygen electron out of its orbit, and the result is a super-oxidized water (SOW) that kills bacteria, viruses, fungi and spores.
Although SOWs have been around for at least 20 years, their use has been hampered by two problems. First, scientists and engineers could not deliver a stable product. Indeed, SOWs had a shelf life so short - a few hours - they had to be manufactured on site, using equipment that could cost more than $100,000. Second, SOWs were either acidic or alkaline, leading to tissue damage and corrosion of equipment.
pH neutral SOW Several years ago, all this changed dramatically when Oculus Innovative Sciences of Petaluma, Calif., patented the first process capable of producing a stable, pH-neutral SOW.
Physicians worldwide who had been following SOWs began to investigate the new product, often skeptically. Anecdotal reports of rapid healing wounds began to circulate at medical conferences.
Mexican doctors led early research efforts. Dr. Gutiérrez reports that they conducted a trial of second and third-degree burn patients divided into two cohorts: patients treated with standard hospital protocols (control) and patients treated with Microcyn (the Mexican brand of Dermacyn.)
"The average hospital stay for the control group was 28 days compared to 14 days for patients treated with Microcyn, Dr. Gutiérrez says. "Also, 46 out of 64 patients in the control group required antibiotics but only six out of 64 in the Microcyn group needed them."
In May, following on the footsteps of regulatory agencies in Canada, Mexico and Europe, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared Dermacyn to lubricate, moisturize, clean and debride acute wounds and burns. The product is rated as shelf-stable for up to 12 months. It requires no dilution, mixing or special handling.
Mechanism of action SOWs appear to work as an anti-infective agent by denaturing proteins in the membrane of single-cell organisms. Differential pressures inside and outside the weakened cell wall cause it to burst. Scavenger cells clean up leftovers.
Multi-cellular organisms are immune to death by implosion because their clumping behavior leaves less membrane exposed. Alberto Piaggesi, M.D, consultant diabetologist at the University Hospital of Pisa, Italy, has been using Microcyn on diabetic foot wounds.
"I suspect that the efficacy and safety of Microcyn relies not only in its bactericidal effect - which has been proven both in vitro and in vivo - but also on its possible interaction with wound biology, since many of the molecules present in the solution have been demonstrated in other contexts to interact with cells and proteins present in healing wounds," he says. "It may well be that Microcyn could positively enhance wound healing processes, though this has yet to be challenged and demonstrated."
Benefits of SOWs If SOWs prove to be an inexpensive disinfectant - the solution is currently sold by prescription only for $16.80 per 8 oz. bottle, this could help reduce human susceptibility to epidemics.
"I don't know of any resistance to this solution," Dr. Gutiérrez says. "So far it will kill any kind of bacteria, mycobacteria, spores, fungi and viruses."
He adds, "If we can go back to water for cleaning and disinfecting, the world will be a much better place because we are not polluting our environment."