A French study has found surgery is slower than maggot therapy in cleaning wounds. Photo Credit: Tarquin/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

Maggot therapy, the use of maggots to clean wounds, sounds barbaric to some, but is known to work. A recently released French study found wounds in some patients that were not healing respond better to maggots than surgery.

Proven therapy could bug some

The idea of having a wound treated by maggots is enough to make some people nauseous. The practice seems barbaric compared to more conventional treatments like antibiotics and surgery, but there is a history of maggot therapy dating back thousands of years.
Also called maggot abridgement therapy, according to WebMD, live maggots are introduced into a wound. The right type of maggot, which is a fly larvae, has to be used, as certain species eat only necrotic, or dead, tissue. The maggots eat the dead tissue, which helps keep wound clean and wards off infection.

French study finds maggots work as well as surgery

A study carried out at the University of Caen, in the French region of Normandy, found maggot therapy works faster at extricating dead tissue from non-healing wounds on the lower body than surgery, according to Fox News. The study, which appears in the Archives of Dermatology, used more than 100 patients, half of whom were treated with surgical techniques and the other half were treated with maggots. The study was blind, as the patients were blindfolded while their wounds were being treated.
Maggots, inside a sterile pouch similar to a teabag, were inserted into the wounds and allowed to eat away the dead tissue twice weekly for two weeks. In patients receiving maggot treatment, their wounds had an average of 54.5 percent of dead tissue within the wound itself, compared to 66.5 percent dead tissue in patients that received conventional treatment.
However, the benefit was only realized in the first eight days. After 15 and 30 days after beginning treatment, the amount of dead tissue was the same. In other words, maggots will clean the wound faster but the wound heals at the same rate.

Approved and covered

The Food and Drug Administration approved maggot therapy for use in cleaning wounds in 2004. It is often seen as a beneficial therapy for diabetic ulcers, according to Bloomberg, as several studies have shown that maggots clean and close those wounds as easily as surgery.
It’s also cheaper; a study by the University of Hawaii published this year found a two-day supply of green bottle fly maggots from Monarch Labs cost $100 and patients required a 10-day course of treatment. Surgical treatments for diabetic ulcers can run upwards of $7,000 to $10,000. If amputation is required, up to $65,000.
The U of H study also found the larvae helped close wounds in 21 of 27 patients. An Australian study, published in September, similarly found maggot therapy helped close skin ulcers in 27 of 37 patients, according to the Australian. In both studies, some wounds had been open for periods of up to five years.



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