We look back at leeches and scoff (medical leeches have made a comeback, by the way).
But maggots? Are they kidding?
Maggots was one of the most revolting sexually transmitted diseases I met during my time as House Surgeon (man and woman both flyblown and infested—we never could decide who gave who the problem).
But now surgeons are using maggots to treat leg ulcers, where tissue has died.
Actually, it makes some sense. Maggots (apparently) can nibble away at dead tissue and know to leave the good (living) tissue alone. So with a bad leg ulcer that is covered in dead tissue, maggots are applied loose or in a net bag.
Maggot therapy (also called larval therapy, sounds better doesn’t it?) did indeed remove dead tissues better than standard therapy. However patients treated with maggot therapy did not heal any quicker than those given the standard treatment.
And yes, this has now been tested properly, using a scientific trial. Jo C. Dumville, PhD, and colleagues, at the University of York, England, enrolled 267 patients with leg ulcers and at least 25% wound coverage with dead tissue.
Standard treatment for these ulcers with various kinds of hydrogels—wet dressings that pull dead tissue from the ulcers—was compared with maggots.
Maggots did just as well. Unfortunately, patients reported more pain with maggots. So it may not be an ideal choice for that reason.
Other than that, you gotta ask: where do they get handfuls of maggots that are clean? Surely not a fishing bait shop?
[Dumville, J.C. British Medical Journal, Online First edition, March 19, 2009.]