Water Decontamination Products for Wound Irrigation in Austere Environments Benchtop Evaluation and Recommendations

Ian B. Holcomb, Stefanie M. Shiels, Nathan Marsh, Daniel J. Stinner, Gerald McGwin, John B. Holcomb, Joseph C. Wenke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Irrigation is used to minimize infection of open wounds. Sterile saline is preferred, but potable water is becoming more widely accepted. However, the large volumes of water that are recommended are usually not available in austere environments. This study determined the long-term antimicrobial effectiveness of military purification powder compared with currently available civilian methods. The study also compared the physical characteristics and outcomes under the logistical constraints. Methods: Six commercially available water decontamination procedures were used to decontaminate five different sources of water (pond water, river water, inoculated saline, tap water, and sterile saline). Each product was evaluated based on six different parameters: bacterial culture, pH, turbidity, cost, flow rate, and size. Results: All methods of treatment decreased the bacterial count below the limit of detection. However, they had variable effects on pH and turbidity of the five water sources. Prices ranged from $7.95 to $350, yielding 10–10,000L of water, and weighing between 18 and 500g. Conclusion: In austere settings, where all equipment is carried manually, no single decontamination device is available to optimize all the measured parameters. Since all products effectively reduced microbial levels, their size, cost, and production capability should be evaluated for the intended application.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-75
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of special operations medicine : a peer reviewed journal for SOF medical professionals
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2024


  • infection
  • prehospital care
  • wound care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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