Background: Moringa oleifera is a plant found in many tropical and subtropical countries. Many different uses and properties have been attributed to this plant, mainly as a nutritional 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. The aim of this study is to test the efficacy of this product using an in vivo design with healthy volunteers.
Methods: The hands of fifteen volunteers were artificially contaminated with Escherichia coli. Moringa oleifera leaf powder was tested as a hand washing product and was compared with reference non-medicated liquid soap using a cross over design following an adaptation of the European Committee for Standardization protocol (EN 1499). In a second part of tests, the efficacy of the established amount of Moringa oleifera leaf powder was compared with an inert powder using the same protocol.
Results: Application of 2 and 3 g of dried Moringa oleifera leaf powder (mean log10-reduction: 2.44 ± 0.41 and 2.58 ± 0.34, respectively) was significantly less effective than the reference soap (3.00 ± 0.27 and 2.99 ± 0.26, respectively; p < 0.001). Application of the same amounts of Moringa oleifera (2 and 3 g) but using a wet preparation, was also significantly less effective than reference soap (p < 0.003 and p < 0.02, respectively). However there was no significant difference when using 4 g of Moringa oleifera powder in dried or wet preparation (mean log10-reduction: 2.70 ± 0.27 and 2.91 ± 0.11, respectively) compared with reference soap (2.97 ± 0.28). Application of calcium sulphate inert powder was significantly less effective than the 4 g of Moringa oleifera powder (p < 0.01).
Conclusion: Four grams of Moringa oleifera powder in dried and wet application had the same effect as non-medicated soap when used for hand washing. Efficacious and available hand washing products could be useful in developing countries in controlling pathogenic organisms that are transmitted through contaminated hands.