The Use of Maggot Debridement Therapy in Medicine

According to French researchers, maggots might be the answer to cleaning large wounds that do not heal easily.  Some studies have shown that maggots not only help clean the wounds, but also offer antibacterial and healing benefits.

For instance, in a recent study done on patients suffering from venous ulcers on their legs, maggot therapy proved to be the better alternative than surgical cleaning performed by doctors.  In this particular study, two groups of patients were randomly assigned maggot therapy or surgical cleaning.  Maggot therapy consisted of placing little bags of the maggot species Lucilia sericata over the wounds twice a week.  After a week, around two-thirds of the patients who received surgical cleaning had dead tissue – also referred to as slough –  covering their wound, which can impair healing.  However, only around half of the patients who received maggot therapy had slough covering their wounds.  In addition, there was no difference in the amount of pain or crawling sensation reported between the two groups.


Only a few species of fly larvae are suitable to help clean wounds, and these include the blowfly.  Maggots do the job of cleaning the wound by secreting digestive juices onto the wound area and then ingesting the liquefied tissue and bacteria.  Maggots can be very helpful because they remove dead tissue and expose healthy tissue in a process referred to as debridement.  Maggot debridement therapy is usually applied when other measures fail. It was a popular method of treatment in the early 1900s, but lost its popularity after the introduction of antibiotics. However, it is making a comeback in the medical field.  In 2004, the use of maggots for medical purposes was approved in the United States.

However, maggot therapy is not for the weak-hearted.  There is a risk that maggot therapy is too gross of a treatment for some patients.  Furthermore, the above-mentioned study also found that the benefits of using maggots to help treat wounds disappeared after two weeks and that there was no difference in wound closure.

Interestingly, the French researchers who conducted the study, mentioned that in the future maggots might be useful in preparing wounds for skin grafting.  Nevertheless, the use of maggots in today’s practice of medicine is not yet the preferred method of treatment, but might become so in the future.

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