Maggots in Medicine

In the future, maggots will be used more in wound healing than they are being used today. What keeps them from topping the charts is their lack of social acceptance. Even now, reports these little miniature-sheep’s shepherd, Dr. Ronald Sherman, a pathologist at the University of Irvine, California, those who allow use of maggots to ingest the dead and pus-ridden tissue of their wounds, do not want others to know of their treatment.

Their use was not needed after the discovery of penicillin, but previously, and in many unreported cases since, they were being used to rid a wound of pus and decaying debris, especially in areas that scalpels or fingers or other surgical tools could not reach. They now have the FDA’s recommendations.

With more and more bacteria and viruses’ becoming resistant to penicillin and in some cases to all antibiotics, maggots have unashamedly emerged once again to help out. And why shouldn’t they, the material they are feed is what they live on. It’s their one purpose in life; that of recycling putrefied matter.

The maggots have to be of a particular sort; mostly, blowflies that are used. The ratio of five to ten to a two inch square of tissue is how the amount needed is calculated. Then the wound is covered with a dressing but an air-tight one. The workers need air.

They are left in place from forty-eight to seventy-two hours. If all goes well, and they have liquefied the decaying tissue by secreting their digestive juices on the wound and then ingesting it, they will have grown from a mere .08 inch to 0.4 inch during their tour of duty.

Often times, we are told, this is the only treatment for some wounds. Had this not been resorted to, usually as the last option, an arm, leg, foot, or even life itself, would have been lost. During World War 1, it is documented, that soldiers were carried into field hospitals with maggots already at work with the debridement process. It was this action that saved many soldiers’ lives. Because of these natural wonder-workers’, gangrene was not an issue.

Foot and leg ulcers, burns, infected post-operative wounds are the usual conditions that these little varmints are employed to assist in healing. They must be hungry and they must be healthy, otherwise the scavenger operation’ will not be successful.

Are the patient aware of any sensation while these creepy-crawly things are at work on some portion of their anatomy? Some, reports Dr. Sherman feel nothing; others do feel a tingle, an itch, and some complain of a little pain. The pain resulting from the critters either jamming up against a nerve or maybe biting into one. Mostly, there is no problem with the treatment whatsoever.

It takes several days and by the third day the operation’ gets a little messy and smelly as the wound oozes pus but after this it is soon over. This is good news indeed for the future. With it becoming more and more clear everyday that antibiotics, while still the miracle drug, may one day succumb to its overuse.

No doubt with death at the door, maggots may be welcomed more and more. At least doctors and nurses, who normally are not as squeamish as society in general, will welcome them into their rightful place. To learn more or to purchase them check online.