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The Use of Maggots in Medicine

Updated on July 15, 2012

Maggots are fly larvae.  When they mature in a few days, they become blow flies.  The same flies we don’t want on our foods and beverages because they are pretty dirty and can cause many diseases.  Maggots are also the same larvae we see on rotten foods.  And the yuckiest of them all, maggots are the larvae that live on dead people and animals.  They naturally occur in decaying and rotting flesh.  So, why would we want to use maggots in medicine?  

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maggots left in wound
maggots left in wound
maggots left in wound

Maggot Debridement Therapy (MDT)

Maggot debridement (cleaning) therapy is used in cleaning wounds that won’t heal.  In many cases, doctors find that MDT is more efficient in cleaning wounds than any doctor or antibiotics can.  Not all maggots can be used in medicine.  Apparently, there are different maggot species also.  The ones that can be used are the maggots that do not eat healthy tissues and do not multiply in the wound.  Modern medicinal maggots are farmed in a sterile environment to ensure safety for medical use.

 

Diabetics are the usual people who develop non-healing wounds or sores.  When diabetes worsens, diabetics usually develop open sores on their feet or legs.  Due to poor blood circulation, these sores won’t heal.  In many cases, their foot is amputated just to prevent the spread of infections to nearby tissues.  Deep wounds that are caused by accidents can also develop into non-healing wounds.

 

So, how do you avoid amputation?  The answer is MDT, also called biosurgery.  Live maggots are placed in wounds and covered with a bandage to keep them in place.  First, they eat the dead flesh that helps clean the wound.  Second, they eliminate bacteria.  And lastly, they stimulate cell regeneration and healing.  However, using an MDT is not a guarantee that wounds would heal.  They just heal wounds in most cases.  And they do clean wounds efficiently.

 

MDT is not available in most parts of the world.  U.S.A. and the U.K. are two countries that use MDT.  In other parts of the world, you’ll need to ask your doctor if this is available in your area.

 

Maggot Debridement Therapy (MDT) Is Not the Same as Myiasis

Myiasis (pronounced mai-a-sis or mai-ai-a-sis) is a disease where a non-healing wound or sore is infested by maggots.  When an open wound or sore is not healed for a long time, maggot infestation can occur.  When the right maggots live in the wound, it can be beneficial.  But when the wrong maggots are in the wound, then it can be dangerous to its surrounding tissues.  Some maggots will eat healthy tissues and will multiply in the wound.  Some will also burrow (hide) under the skin.  These types of maggots are dangerous and can cause the spread of infections to its surrounding tissues.

 

Myiasis usually occurs to people with non-healing open wounds or open sores on their feet or legs.  Any part of the body can certainly be infested with live maggots but the feet and legs are more vulnerable to such infestations.  People with advanced stage of diabetes are certainly more susceptible to myiasis.  Diseases that cause lesions and skin inflammations can cause myiasis.  Deep wounds that are caused by accidents and develop complications can also cause myiasis.

 

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    • BeatsMe profile imageAUTHOR

      BeatsMe 

      7 years ago

      Hi Phortunate, best of luck on your paper. I do hope the people in your school will accept this. This is still not being practiced in many countries and a lot of people have difficulty accepting this old medicine.

      Thanks for coming by and am glad you found this helpful. Cheers.

    • profile image

      Phortunate 

      7 years ago

      I'm a medical student in Nigeria. We were asked for papers for our yearly regional publication and I remembere coming across maggot therapy. Thanks to you, I hope to be able to write a good paper on this issue cos I sure a whole lot of folks over here have not heard about it. They cant bear the maggots ,talkless of considering it as a medicinal therapy

    • BeatsMe profile imageAUTHOR

      BeatsMe 

      7 years ago

      Hi Eileen, I know what you mean. It isn't easy to think about it. It's not easy to accept maggots and leeches as 'clean' creatures. Thanks for coming by. :)

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 

      7 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      Brilliant hub very interesting. I did know of these but it still makes me shudder to think of them although they are clean. It is the same with leaches they eat the bad away and save lives too. thanks for sharing this great topic.

    • BeatsMe profile imageAUTHOR

      BeatsMe 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for the thumb up, BkCreative. :D

      Hope I gave new info and thanks for dropping by.

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 

      7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      How interesting. What is old is new again. I appreciate the distinction you made between the beneficial and for what purposes.

      Great hub! Rated way up!

    • BeatsMe profile imageAUTHOR

      BeatsMe 

      7 years ago

      Don't get ill, Katyzzz, hehehe. I'm glad you did finally read this. It must've been scary to know someone with myiasis, I've heard that they almost don't feel anything when they have it. Not sure if it applies to everyone, though.

      Thanks for reading and for sharing. :)

    • katyzzz profile image

      katyzzz 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Although I felt quite ill at the thought of reading this, when I did so I was really interested in what you said and I knew someone who had myiasis on a leg injury, he could not see well and did not know what was happening, finally they cleaned him up in hospital.

      I had not previously heard of the medical maggots treatment and that is very interesting indeed once you get over the initial shock.

    • BeatsMe profile imageAUTHOR

      BeatsMe 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for the new info SilentReed. That ritual is gross. I pity the people who have to go through that. Thanks for dropping by. :)

    • SilentReed profile image

      SilentReed 

      7 years ago from Philippines

      I once saw a docu about strange burial ritual where the relatives of the dead kept the body at home and ate the maggots that were infesting the corpse because they believe this was a way to keep the spirit of their love one with them.Your hub reminded me and I thought it funny, visualizing a cartoon "Take that you maggots" sort of a quid pro quo.:))

    • BeatsMe profile imageAUTHOR

      BeatsMe 

      8 years ago

      Hi Nell, we're lucky we only have to see them on TV, however gross they are. Other people need to live with the fact that they need to put 'em on their wound, or else.

      Thanks for reading. Hope the pictures I put here didn't scare you away. :)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      8 years ago from England

      Hi, I had heard that they are starting to use them again, I remember seeing a TV programme about it, but had to turn over as it got a little bit to graphic for me! but it is fascinating how it can be done, interesting hub, thanks nell

    • BeatsMe profile imageAUTHOR

      BeatsMe 

      8 years ago

      Hehe. Good luck with that. Most countries/most doctors don't even know about them. :)

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Very interesting information. Not sure if MDT is available in South Africa but I'm now going to look into that just for interest sake.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • BeatsMe profile imageAUTHOR

      BeatsMe 

      8 years ago

      Hi Writernovel, yes, there are some doctors who are willing to use them as medicine but there are some who'd rather not touch them. It mostly depend on where you are.

      Do the maggots die eventually inside of a person? No. The doctor should take them off after a day or two. Thanks for reading. :)

      Hi Chris, thanks for coming by and leaving nice comment. :)

    • profile image

      Chris 

      8 years ago

      Good one BeatsMe, nature has so many things we must be glad to have them. Cheers.

    • writernovel profile image

      writernovel 

      8 years ago from United States

      I have heard that many doctors are returning to this type of therapy as well as using leeches. Makes my stomach turn but very helpful information. Do the maggots die eventually inside of a person?

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