Maggots aren't high on most people's favorite-animals list. But maggots -- specifically, the larvae of the green blowfly, Phaenicia sericata -- can be helpful for the very reason they horrify. By eating dead tissue at a patient's wound site, maggots may help decrease the risk of post-operative infections, according to an article in the
Although military surgeons noticed maggots' beneficial effect on soldiers' wounds centuries ago, maggot debridement therapy (MDT) as it is practiced today began in the 1920s and is undergoing a revival in popularity. Debridement, or the removal of contaminated tissue to expose healthy tissue, can be done surgically. However, maggots that have been disinfected during the egg stage so that they don't carry bacteria into the wound have their advantages. The larvae preferentially consume dead tissue (steering clear of live), they excrete an antibacterial agent, and they stimulate wound healing -- all factors that could be linked to the lower occurrence of infection in maggot-treated wounds.
MDT typically involves applying maggot dressings to patients' wounds twice a week for 48 to 72 hours at a time.
Many patients accept the idea of maggot therapy more readily than one might think. "Patients reacted much better than the administration. They reacted a lot better than the surgeons," said Ronald Sherman, MD, director of BioTherapeutics, Education & Research Foundation and lead author of the article. "After the first year or two, most of the patients that I treated came to me looking for maggot therapy, having heard about it from other patients in the clinics or in the hospital."
Patients' attitudes may be less of a deterrent to MDT's resurgence than simple economics. "Technically, producing maggots is not expensive. However, it is very labor-intensive, and maggots are highly perishable so they cannot be stored and stocked," said
Source: Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA)