Maggots, Your (Medical) Friend

Via Consumer Reports Health blog: A recent study found that FDA-approved maggots work faster than hydrogel dressing to remove dead tissue in human leg ulcers. However, the ulcers healed just about as fast whether maggots or hydrogel was used. So, while the maggots weren’t any better than the hydrogel, they also weren’t any worse. At the very least medical maggots are a viable alternative, and should be considered in other dead-tissue clearing applications. Hopefully you’ll never need maggots but if your doctor should ever happen to suggest them, resist the urge to run away screaming. They’re just trying to feed on your flesh help!

Maggots: Much-maligned, but medically helpful [Consumer Reports Health Blog] (Photo: OakleyOriginals)


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  1. Radi0logy says:

    If my doctor ever suggests using maggots instead of other dead tissue clearing applications, I shall presume I am in Zimbabwe, and only THEN run away screaming.

  2. NeverLetMeDown says:

    In another chapter of the “yucky, but good for you” school of medicine, surgeons will sometimes use leeches to get blood flood moving in reattached limbs on digits – the leeches will pull blood through the vessels, and they release an anticoagulant, which helps too. Maybe those 16th century doctors weren’t totally wrong! (although that whole bleeding people thing hasn’t worked out too well).

    • JartMaster_GitEmSteveDave says:

      @NeverLetMeDown: Also, in the way of releasing a beneficial compound, the maggots release a anti-biotic like compound which helps prevent further infection. Hey, all I know if if the MRSA attacks, and some sterile, cleaner than me maggots will help me out, I say “Pour em on, and I’ll try not to giggle as they tickle me”.

  3. ratnerstar says:

    Great! But how do I get my maggots approved by the FDA?

  4. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    If I can provide my own FDA-approved maggots, can I NOT get charged $500 per maggot?

    • Saboth says:

      I@pecan 3.14159265:

      Heh, my gf works in a hospital and was telling me about the medicinal leaches they use. I said, that should be some cheap therapy, and she said no, they come from special medical leach farms. I said…wtf…a leach is a leach, and a maggot is a maggot. No need for the $$$ for one.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        @Saboth: I don’t know, I’d probably feel better knowing it was at least from a farm for this purpose and not just dug up out back by the dumpster behind the hospital.

        But I would probably run screaming anyway.

      • silver-bolt says:

        @Saboth: Actually, no. There are hundreds of different types of maggots, each from a different type of fly. Some will eat live flesh, while others will only eat necrotic flesh. Some also produce poison. So those medically approved maggots come from one of ten species of fly that produce helpful maggots out of the hundreds of flys that do not.

        Leeches, not so much, but leeches can release poison or disease if they are breed in wild water.

    • bigloaf says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: Maggots: Perfect when you feel like being treated with a thousand of something.

      • dorianh49 says:

        @bigloaf: Hmpf. Reminds me of the time I was hungry for a thousand of something and ordered a dish with rice at a Denny’s in San Diego. The rice was moving. That was about 12 years ago and I haven’t been back to a Denny’s since.

    • GuinevereRucker says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: Hehe! You can also upgrade to the $900 maggots on certain insurance plans.

  5. HarcourtArmstrong says:

    If they work just as well, the question we should all be asking is, “are they cheaper?”

  6. Blueskylaw says:

    If maggots are cheaper than hydrogel, will my insurance plan now require them or their generic version?

  7. skc15 says:

    I vote for maggots. They’re earth-friendly, sustainable, and a low-fat source of protein! Once they’re done feasting on your necrotic flesh, you can feed them to your pets! Hooray!

    Okay, I’m not sure what’s gotten into me this morning.

  8. HiPwr says:

    I hope PETA is looking into the exploitation of these innocent little beings.

  9. fjordtjie says:

    maggots have been experimentally used for quite a while, especially in cases of deep wounds (the example i saw used most recently was a few inches into someone’s heel) and it did help heal faster, as the wounds were so deep due to infection and the maggots were removing the infected tissue, and the wounds weren’t healing on their own. so though this article makes the claim that they don’t heal faster in leg ulcers (cutaneous) it may actually work better in other circumstances (i.e. deep festering wounds into muscle tissue). in the case study, the option was lose the foot or let some maggots crawl around inside you for a while, and they obviously opted for the maggots.

    as for whether they cost more, once you get a colony of sterile maggots, it’s relatively easy to keep them going, so i doubt it’s much more expensive than hydrogel…but that is just me–not a medical professional.

    • fjordtjie says:

      @fjordtjie: also, the maggots eat ONLY the dead tissue, so when you take them out, only healthy tissue is exposed. they aren’t eating any live tissue. and if i remember right, they crawl out when they are full?

  10. ClutchDude says:

    Well, hopefully they’re sterile in both baby making and germs. Lord knows I don’t want them gettin’ it on and providing even more um….things. Gross.

  11. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    No one’s explicitly said it yet, but here goes: Ewwwwwwwwwwwww.

  12. ElizabethD says:

    Thanks, but no thanks. 8-O

    • floraposte says:

      @ElizabethD: I might be able to deal with the maggots, because they’re short term. However, there are some good experimental results in treating Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis by literally infesting sufferers with certain intestinal parasites. That’s an area where I’m going to stick with the nice prescription medicine, thanks.

  13. Blueskylaw says:

    Objective – To assess the cost effectiveness of larval therapy compared with hydrogel in the management of leg ulcers.

    Results – The larvae arms were pooled for the main analysis. Treatment with larval therapy cost, on average, £96.70 ({euro}109.61; $140.57) more per participant per year (95% confidence interval -£491.9 to £685.8) than treatment with hydrogel. Participants treated with larval therapy healed, on average, 2.42 days before those in the hydrogel arm (95% confidence interval -0.95 to 31.91 days) and had a slightly better health related quality of life, as the annual difference in QALYs was 0.011 (95% confidence interval -0.067 to 0.071). However, none of these differences was statistically significant. The incremental cost effectiveness ratio for the base case analysis was estimated at £8826 per QALY gained and £40 per ulcer-free day. Considerable uncertainty surrounds the outcome estimates.

    Conclusions – Debridement of sloughy or necrotic leg ulcers with larval therapy is likely to produce similar health benefits and have similar costs to treatment with hydrogel.

  14. Subsound says:

    From what I hear (I work in a hospital) they work for deep infected wounds, and I know they are a heck of a lot cheaper then hydrogel. They are also a good deal easier to use, as they do their job without much monitoring or time to make sure it’s in there right.

  15. JGKojak says:

    They neglect to tell you about, how 4-6 weeks later, live flies start erupting from your flesh.

  16. tobedetermined says:

    My worry: Doctors/nurses/interns forget the maggots for internal ulcers.

  17. Trai_Dep says:

    Have they done double-blind tests to test the efficacy of the Alien larva for heart patients?
    Bonus: Ripley as your RN!

  18. Feminist Whore says:

    Whatever you do, don’t look up Maggots on wikipedia, and if you accidentally do that, don’t scroll down to the image under the Maggot Therapy heading.
    [] That link is not to the wiki on Maggots, I sware.

    • silver-bolt says:

      @♥♥♥: I totally believe you.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @♥♥♥: That’s the most tempting come-on I’ve read outside of Craigslist.
      When you were a kid, you were the one saying, “No matter how brave you’ll be if you lick the frozen signpost, don’t do it. Don’t be heroic. No. Really. Don’t!”
      Although, I was the kid with the camera offering immortality for Olympic acts of awesomeness – no charge! – so I guess we’re even. :D

  19. Smorgasbord says:

    With the flesh eating diseases sometimes maggots are the only way to stop the disease. The maggots eat only infected cells and leave the good ones alone. They are more precise than surgically removing the infected tissue.

  20. Geekybiker says:

    Nature can do alot of things we can’t do with science yet. Its just good sense to raid nature’s tool box for things like this.

  21. neilb says:

    I have a friend who works in a wound care center. She swears by these. Gross does not matter when you have gangrene or your foot is rotting off due to poor circulation. Maggots keep the flesh a healthy pink due to eating the dead tissue.
    He best story was of a patient with poor circulation who accidentally had let maggots into his pressure stockings. They had been there for months and months eating the dead tissue as soon as it was produced. What would normally have been an amputation was, instead, healthy clean tissue.
    Maggots are also being used in MRSA-infected limbs that would otherwise have to be amputated.
    Give me maggots any day over an amputation!

  22. Trai_Dep says:

    When I get a pile of writhing maggots dumped on my wounded flesh, I’m refusing to name them.
    Because it will make eating them afterwards that much harder.

  23. Kaellorian says:

    I would second the previously mentioned precaution (stupid reply option still buggy) against googling maggot therapy or the wikipedia article on the same topic. The photos are not for the faint of heart. Kinda cool, though, in that look-at-me-dissect-this-frog-and-not-vomit-because-i’m-a-bad-ass -eigth-grader kind of way.

  24. YardanCabaret says:

    I heard about this the other day and you left out the most important part. Using the maggots hurts more than the hydrogel. If there is no benefit to using the maggots the downside of pain would send me to the hydrogel for sure.

  25. Saboth says:

    This also reminds me of a store about phages that I read the other day. When patients in other countries get an infection that is immune to antibiotics, they simply put a solution on the wound that contains thousands of different phage types. These are organisms that feed on bacteria, but are benign to humans. What makes them unique is the fact they evolve when the bacteria evolves, so bacteria can’t become immune to them. But of course we have the FDA here that will block research in favor of some big $$$ pharma solution, I am sure.

  26. FuryOfFirestorm says:

    Maggots? In MY vagina?

  27. FuryOfFirestorm says:

    Now Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum’s offspring have jobs!