WTF Fun Fact 13270 – Maggot Therapy

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.

Maggots today

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.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Entomological Medicine: How One Scientist is Working to Bring Maggot Therapy Into Wider Use” — Entomology Today

WTF Fun Fact 12636 – A Medical Device That’ll Make You Squirm

Sure, it sounds gross. It is gross. But so is a lot of the creative stuff doctors do to keep us alive.

As it turns out, the resurgence of therapies that use maggots and leeches has saved thousands of lives. Doctors can use them because they are FDA-approved as medical devices, despite being living creatures.

Now, no one heads to the local community garden or dumpster to get medicinal leeches and maggots. They are created in labs within very specific parameters.

So, let’s start with maggots. How can they possibly be medicinal?

The maggots used in medicine are the larvae of bottle-green blowflies. Because maggots only eat dead skin and not living skin, they’re actually perfect for cleaning infected wounds. Instead of having some first-year resident scrubbing out your open wound, maggots are even more gentle by comparison. In fact, since they’re eating dead tissue that’s already numb, you don’t feel the chomping at all. And they do a darn thorough job!

Leeches, on the other hand, are known as blood drinkers. Both of these creatures have been used in medicine for thousands of years, but are just making a comeback. However, leeches weren’t always applied in helpful ways in the past. Now, they’re used to clean up pooled blood in the body.

According to Discover Magazine: “When blood starts pooling instead of circulating, the area swells, and the lack of fresh, oxygenated blood causes skin tissues to die. Leeches can prevent that from happening.”

In the 1980s, as more wounds became resistant to antibiotics, a few doctors wanted to try maggots again and got some men at the VA hospital to agree. After the trials worked, the doctor in charge realized that in order to share the maggots with colleagues, he had to file paperwork with the FDA, and they turned out to be hard to regulate. But it was possible and in 2003, the FDA approved maggots as a medical device. Six months later, leeches were approved as well.

Obviously, not all hospitals are keen to use them (and patients aren’t generally big fans of the idea either). – WTF fun facts

Source: “Leeches and Maggots Are FDA-Approved and Still Used in Modern Medicine” — Discover Magazine