Women who wear saris in the country are now using it as a medium to filter household water and protect their households from cholera.
They are even benefiting some neighbors who do not yet practice the act of filtering water, claim researchers.
"A simple method for filtering pond and river water to reduce the incidence of cholera, field tested in Matlab, Bangladesh, proved effective in reducing the incidence of cholera by 48 per cent," said study researchers.
The 5 year long study conducted by Rita Colwell of the University of Maryland in College Park and colleagues looked at 7000 village women from Matlab, a small district in Bangladesh's Chittagong division.
Results of the study
During the first half of the study in 2003, the participants were taught to filter their household water with folded saris.
While the results were satisfactory, there was concern that the practice would not be able to sustain during the later years.
Therefore in 2008, a follow-up study was conducted by the researchers to test if the practice was still in use.
Unexpectedly, 31 percent of the study participants still continued to filter their water, almost 60 percent of them using a sari for the purpose.
Further, out of the population who had not received the training, 26 percent had started filtering their household water.
“In addition, households that did not filter their water with saris, but were located where water filtration was regularly practiced by others also had a lower incidence of cholera,” Colwell said.
Active participation could further lower the disease rate
Researchers, however, believe that with active participation and survey, the disease occurrence could be further reduced to a much lower level.
"With the lower rate of filtration in this follow-up study, it is not surprising that theobserved reduction in disease rate was not as high as the 48 per cent observed in the original trial, suggesting that active reinforcement would have been effective in ensuring higher protection," said Colwell.
The findings are published in the inaugural issue of mBio, an online, open-access journal.