Medical maggot therapy also known as MDT(maggot debridement therapy) is the intentional use of live maggots in treating deeply infected wounds. Maggots work because they eat the necrotic (dead) tissue within the wound that causes infection.
The treatment seems to be effective after surgery, because maggots secrete a substance that fights infection. Maggots also are thought to secrete a substance that stimulates new blood vessels that aid in developing new healthy tissue growth.
When surgeons clean a wound they cut away the dead tissue, but sometimes they cannot tell what tissue is dead and what tissue is alive. A maggot knows what tissue is alive because it only eats dead tissue. The medicinal maggot performs cheap surgical care, 24 hours a day.
What are maggots?
Maggots are the larvae of the green bottle fly, also known as the green blowfly. Large and metallic green in color, the fly eats only dead organic matter. It’s the type of fly seen hovering over rotten garbage or over a dead animal on a hot summer day.
The maggots are the size of uncooked rice. Medicinal maggots have been treated with an antibiotic at the medical laboratory that sells them.
History of maggots in medicine.
From ancient times the use of maggots has been documented as an effective wound treatment. There are reports of the successful use of maggots for healing wounds by Mayan Indians and Aboriginal tribes in Australia.
Throughout all the world’s wars since Roman times, military physicians have used maggots to treat wounded soldiers resulting in positive outcomes.
Maggot debridement therapy (MDT) has been used in US hospitals since the 1920s as a treatment for bone and tissue infections. The use of medicinal maggots was replaced by anti-biotic therapy in the 1940s. Now that some wounds have developed a resistance to antibiotics, maggot therapy appears to be making a comeback.
Where do the medicinal maggots come from?
Sterile maggots used in MDT are grown exclusively by Monarch Labs in Irvine, California. Monarch Labs are the main suppliers of medicinal maggots for hospitals throughout the United States.
Once the medicinal maggots are finished treating a wound, they are dropped into alcohol and destroyed. They are destroyed so they won’t develop into flies, and since they are larvae they are unable to reproduce while in the wound.
How are the maggots used on wounds and how does it feel?
A mini maggot “condo” with walls of a foam-like substance called Duoderm and a roof of sterile netting, is set up around the wound to contain the maggots as they eat. About 5-10 maggots per square centimeter are put into the “condo.” Treatment usually lasts for 2-3 days.
Patients experiencing MDT report feeling any thing from a slight tickle to a burrowing sensation. Any discomfort can be controlled with pain medicine. Once in a while the maggots may have to be removed ahead of time.
The future of maggot therapy
In November 2008 the American Medical Association and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services endorsed medicinal maggot therapy as appropriate treatment for many types of non- healing wounds especially for diabetic and MRSA infections that otherwise could result in amputation.
A container of 500-1000 maggots costs about $70. Sometimes a few thousand dollars of medicinal maggot therapy can cure what a million dollars of conventional treatment cannot.
Because of the “yuck” factor, medical maggot therapy may not be for everyone. But for some, these “creepy crawlies” could be just what the doctor ordered.