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Are Maggots the Trick to Healing Diabetic Wounds?

Thursday, September 29, 2011 - 12:28pm

Doctors have a new take on a therapy once used in biblical times. Maggots have been found to help heal the severe wounds of diabetic patients.

They're creepy and crawly, yes, but they could be the answer to helping diabetics with their severe ulcers.

Doctor Lawrence Eron, an associate professor at the University of Hawaii John Burns School of Medicine, studied the effects of maggots on open wounds.

"The maggots are able to de-breed or remove tissue that is dead without harming the living tissue. This sort of specific kind of therapy is very helpful in allowing wounds to heal, but they do more than that," says Dr. Eron. "They also secrete various substances into the wounds that are responsible for excellent tissue growth and healing."

In 21 of 27 patients, medical-grade larvae helped close wounds of diabetics. Some of those sores had been open for up to five years. Nurse practitioner Missy Marineau is on the research team.

"The larvae therapy was able to, not only help in the infection, but also to bring good blood flow to the area. The pictures that were shown previously demonstrated how necrotic, how black the tissue was in the beginning of larvae therapy and by the end, it's pink and healthy," she says.

Maggot treatment is an age-old therapy, but with the advent of antibiotics in the 1940s, their use dropped dramatically. Marineau is surprised that, for patients, there isn't really much of that 'eww factor'.

That's because when there is the risk of a dramatic procedure such as an amputation, the patients educate themselves and become open to anything.

"I would say at least half of the patients have already been introduced to this and are familiar with it. It's amazing how savvy our patient population is now and how much they research, especially when they are looking at amputations, of how readily they go to the internet and to the media for other remedies," says Marineau.

One thing to keep in mind: these are medical-grade maggots - grown in a lab and germ-free. Dr. Eron warns people to, obviously, not try treating wounds with ordinary maggots at home.
 

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