Has anyone heard of maggots being used in hospitals

01:00 Mon 22nd Apr 2002 |

asks msminor:
It's true. Specially bred and sterile maggots are being used increasingly to clean wounds that don't heal because the patient - or the bacteria - has become resistant to antibiotics. They are very effective for diabetic foot ulcers, and one of the most effective means of treating wounds which become infected by the so-called 'superbug' - methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) - which can be life threatening.

Q. Why are maggots so useful
They only eat dead or infected tissue and don't touch healthy tissue at all. The bacteria they eat are killed off in their digestive system. Also they only take a few days to heal difficult wounds, where conventional dressings take weeks or even months.

Q. How do they work
First, these medicinal maggots clean a wound by eating the dead, infected tissue, then they disinfect the wound by killing bacteria, and finally they stimulate wound healing. The maggots are used when they are just a day old and only 1-2 mm long. They're kept in place with a secure dressing and taken off about three days later. Usually they leave behind a pink, healthy wound that has newly growing tissue.

Q. Sounds creepy - can you feel them on your skin
Most people who've used them say not. Doctors at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend have been experimenting with maggots for years. They have developed 'Larvae Bags', similar to tea bags, for applying the maggots. This makes them more user friendly for patients. However, they take longer to work than the free-ranging variety and aren't suitable if a wound needs to be healed quickly.

Q. Do the maggots always work
No, occasionally they aren't effective. But there's no record of anyone having an allergic reaction to them.

Q. Are they generally available
Sterile maggots are now being used in more than 400 hospitals and clinics in the UK. They are available on the NHS, luckily, because they're very expensive.

Q. Is this the first time they've been used
No, they've been used for centuries to help heal wounds. Maggot therapy was used routinely until the 1940s, when new antibiotics and surgical procedures took over.

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