Dr Belen Torondel is a microbiologist in the Environmental Health Group and has recently collaborated on a study which explored whether Moringa plant leaves could be used as an effective handwashing product. We asked Dr Torondel to tell us more about the study.
Why is this study important?
Moringa is a plant found in many tropical and subtropical countries. Many different uses and properties have been attributed to this plant, mainly as a nutritious supplement and as a water purifier. Its antibacterial activity against different pathogens has been described in different in vitro settings. However the potential effect of this plant leaf as a hand washing product has never been studied. Local, efficacious and available hand washing products could be useful in developing countries in controlling pathogenic organisms that are transmitted through contaminated hands.
What were the key findings of the study?
The main finding of this study is that Moringa oleifera can reduce bacterial load on artificially contaminated hands of healthy volunteers when used as a dried or wet powder formulation. A dose of 4g of Moringa oleifera in wet or dried formulation presented the same efficacy as non-medicated soap. Our data have been obtained in a laboratory setting, so the next step will be to try this product in real conditions and study its acceptability and convenience for potential users.
What was the most interesting part of conducting this research?
I enjoy exploring local, cheap and possible sustainable solutions for WASH problems. I found very interesting the idea that you can clean your hands with a plant that can grow next to your latrine or your house and have the same effect as soap. After having written and submitted the paper, whilst working in India I discovered that I was also eating the fruit of Moringa every week in our job canteen (I loved it!) and that I had a tree next to my home and many in the neighbourhood and city, because the tree is original from India (from the north Himalayas mountains). It was fascinating to discover the tree by myself after having done all the experimental and writing work!