Maggots are better than surgeons at cleaning wounds

Lianzi Fields
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Image: Thinkstock

Research by medical scientists in France has revealed that the centuries-old method of using maggots to clean wounds is significantly faster than conventional treatments used by surgeons, reported Reuters Health.

Maggot debridement therapy (MDT) is the process in which the disinfected larvae of the fly Lucilia sericata are applied to a wound that is slow to heal or not healing at all.

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The maggots secrete a substance that liquefies dead tissue, which they then ingest, but leave any healthy or new tissue alone. While the wound is healing, maggots are held in place using special plastic devices to prevent them from migrating or escaping.

To test the efficacy of 'maggot therapy', a two-week study by researchers at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Caen in France was undertaken on the leg ulcers of 119 diabetic patients.

Half of the patients were treated with the maggots twice a week to induce healing, while the remainder had their leg ulcers debrided by a surgeon using a scalpel three times a week.

At the end of the first week, the research team reported that the group whose wounds were being cleaned using MDT was significantly better, with only 55 per cent of the wound being covered with dead tissue, known as slough.

At the end of the two weeks, there was no difference between wound closure in both groups.

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There was no difference in pain or crawling sensations between the two groups, said Dr. Anne Dompmartin, a member of the research team. Both groups reported a 'mild' level of pain, and both felt 'crawling sensations' on their wounds at day eight.

Scientists have previously suggested that maggots offer further antibacterial and healing benefits, in addition to wound cleaning, but there has been no research to substantiate these claims.

The findings were reported in this month's issue of Archives of Dermatology.

Watch: Maggots in medicine

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