Maggots: One of Nature's long-abandoned medical devices

Yes, you read the headline right. Doctors are using maggots–extremely effectively–to clean out dead tissue from wounds that won’t heal. Diabetic ulcers so severe that doctors had decided to amputate were healed with ten rounds of maggots set to feed on the dead tissue. Research indicates this therapy is twice as effective as traditional wound debriding (removing debris) for healing “hard to heal” wounds such as:

  • when the patient is under nourished (malnutrition)
  • cancer
  • diabetes mellitus
  • other chronic medical conditions (e.g. heart disease)
  • infection (which may continue due to dead tissue or foreign material within the wound)
  • poor blood supply

Traditional debriding techniques include:

  • surgical (physically removing or cutting away debris)
  • chemical (using chemicals to remove the debris)
  • enzymatic (using natural proteins called enzymes to remove the debris)
  • autolytic (enhancing the natural processes of the body by encouraging a moist wound environment)
  • mechanical (washing the wound or adherent dressings*)

And now maggots (considered a bio-surgical technique). What might this mean for our world? A diabetic who doesn’t have to lose a toe or a foot? I know a woman who began to get gangrene from an improperly inserted rod when she broke her shin and ended up losing her toes–and then her leg from the knee down. The cost of a maggot treatment is a mere few hundred dollars–the savings in unneeded surgeries and extensive followup could be huge. How many doctors know about this technique for preventing infection of wounds? This article says patients who feel squeamish will usually take maggot treatment over losing a piece of their bodies.

This treatment has been in use since the Civil War. Antibiotics replaced it–with varying degrees of success. Some of our “modern” discoveries have clearly contributed to the soaring cost of medical care. Read more about how other of nature’s creatures supply us with healing capabilities.