Maggot therapy involves using disinfected fly larvae (maggots) to help remove damaged tissue from wounds. And while it may sound gross, it’s making a comeback in mainstream medicine.
What is maggot therapy?
Maggot therapy, also known as maggot debridement therapy (MDT), is a medical treatment that uses live maggots to clean and heal wounds in humans. Granted, it sounds like an unpleasant approach to wound care. But it actually has a long and fascinating history dating back centuries. For example, maggots were used by the Mayans and other Native Americans.
In the early 19th century, a French surgeon named Jules-Francois Germain found that maggots could clean wounds more effectively than traditional methods like cauterization. Their use could also help avoid amputation.
In and out of style
Throughout the 19th century, doctors and surgeons used the technique to treat a variety of conditions like ulcers, abscesses, and gangrene. But despite its effectiveness, maggot therapy fell out of favor in the mid-20th century. This is partly due to the development of antibiotics. Those are far easier to convince someone to take!
However, in the 1980s, antibiotic resistance became a huge problem thanks to the overuse of antibiotics. This helped revive the interest in using maggots in medicine. Scientists even developed new techniques for sterilizing and breeding maggots so they would pose less risk. This also helps patients see them as lab-created entities rather than something you’d find in a dumpster.
Today, maggot therapy is recognized as a safe and effective treatment for a variety of wounds. It’s used for treating diabetic foot ulcers, venous stasis ulcers, and pressure ulcers.
While still relatively rare, doctors do use maggots in hospitals today. They’re carefully applied to wounds in a special dressing so they can feed on the dead tissue and secrete enzymes to kill bacteria and promote healing. When the maggots are removed after several days, a wound is cleaned and dressed and ready to let the body take over the healing.
Maggots might sound gross, but they’re a cost-effective treatment option. They are also particularly helpful for patients who have not responded well to other forms of wound care. As a result, this therapy is gaining increasing recognition as a valuable tool in the treatment of chronic wounds.