Would anyone actually voluntarily put flesh-eating maggots on themselves – on open wounds that need healing, no less? You’d be surprised what people will do to avoid losing a foot or a leg to gangrene resulting from loss of circulation caused by diabetes. When movie writers want to make a character spout a hilariously evil-minded curse, they sometimes think of something that involves being eaten alive by crawling maggots. Horror movies like The Ring often feature images of wriggling maggots to creep out their audiences. These little baby fly larvae that look like worms are among the most disgusting creatures that most people can think of. However, in spite of the connotations used in Hollywood, maggot therapy or maggot debridement therapy (MDT), is being revived as an effective alternative to amputation to debride, or remove necrotic (dead) tissue from festering ulcers and wounds in diabetic patients.
Adult flies lay hundreds of eggs at a time. Generally, they’re found on the putrefying carcass of an anima. As the eggs hatch and become larvae, the baby maggots feast on the ooze escaping from the flesh. Fly larvae secrete enzymes to hasten the putrefaction process. As ugly as this image may be, these unique abilities found in maggots have a very useful medical application – wound healing. Larvea used for tissue debridement are sterilized and referred to as surgical maggots, which come from the green bottle fly.
Despite being a horrific-sounding process, larval therapy has been used for centuries by the Maya, Native Americans and Aborigines in Australia for wound healing. Maggot treatment was used during the Renaissance and during Napolean’s time in the 18th century, where it was noted that soldiers’ wounds infested with maggots healed more effectively with less mortality and loss of limbs.
Diabetes is a serious public health issue in the US. The disease affects over 20 million people and kills 250,000 each year. Diabetes is the cause of a variety of secondary ailments to the body, especially as the disease progresses. It especially causes nerve damage and damage to the blood vessels. Blood vessels in the extremities often narrow and harden due to lack of adequate circulation. In diabetics, the hands and feet are especially vulnerable. Poorly supplied with oxygen and nutrients, they can develop ulcers that fester, spread and heal slowly, if at all.
It is difficult for the body to fight an infection when it covers a large area and doesn’t receive proper blood supply for healing. Diabetic infections often get out of hand before patients seek help from a doctor. In those patients whose wounds have not responded to lesser therapies, doctors may need to cut away all the infected tissue to promote better healing. The more completely they are able to clear away infected tissue, the better the chances that the patient’s body is able to heal itself. For patients who come in too late, an amputation may sometimes be necessary.
The statistics for diabetes-related amputations are frightening – more than 50,000 amputations are performed each year in the US alone. Every minute around the world, there are two people who have diabetes-related amputations performed. In an effort to reduce the number of amputations, some doctors are turning to maggot therapy. As far back as 1929, John’s Hopkins University utilized maggots to help 21 patients suffering from intractable wounds, and results where stunning. All patients showed rapid response to the therapy and their lesions where totally healed within two months time, with none needing amputations.
After the discovery of antibiotics in the early part of the 20th century use of maggots for wound treatment was curtailed; however, the growing inability of antibiotic-resistance for fighting infection has lead to this ancient therapy’s rebirth for the treatment of diabetic wounds and other similar conditions.
How does maggot therapy work?
When the doctor determines that a diabetic patient has a seriously infected wound that has trouble healing, he cleans and sanitizes the wound and then places a few sterilized maggots on the wound and covers it with bandages.
The maggots proceed to clear the infected flesh until all that remains is healthy tissue. The process cleans out harmful flesh-eating bacteria that can re-infect the area. The very action by which they eat away the infected tissue boosts regenerative action by the body, strengthening the immune system.
Maggots are replaced periodically until the wound is completely clean and the healing process appears to be underway.
Where does one get maggot therapy?
In the late 1990s only a handful of practitioners in four countries were utilizing maggot therapy; however, today any doctor can prescribe it for patients in need of possible amputations. There are thousands of therapists in the U.S. using this treatment modality in over 800 centers in the U.S. alone.
Could you do this yourself?
Self treatment is not recommended. Not any kind of maggot will do. The maggots used for medical purposes are a special kind – they come from the green bottle fly and are raised in sterile conditions to be disease-free. The application process requires experience. One can only apply about 30 maggots to a square inch of infected tissue. If too many maggots are used at any given time, healthy flesh is at risk.
Maggot therapy is usually the last choice with most doctors
Conventional doctors don’t usually turn to this exotic treatment option until they exhaust antibiotics, minor surgery and a variety of traditional and alternative means of wound care. When a diabetic patient has a virulent infection that resists antibiotics, there may be no other option than to use maggot therapy in an effort to avoid amputation. Keep in mind that alternative methods exist that are safe and effective for both preventing and treating diabetes, to help bypass the extremes written about in this article.
For more information on alternative treatments for diabetes, see the following articles by the author:
Home remedies lower blood sugar and prevent diabetes
Home Remedies and Alternative Treatments for Diabetic Foot Pain and Peripheral Neuropathy
Potassium Rich Foods for Diabetics
Discover how dandelions protect against diabetes, cancer, liver disease, and kidney stones
Reishi, the Mushroom of Immortality: Miraculous Health Benefits! Heal Cancer, Slow Aging, Regrow Hair, Control Diabetes, Strengthen Immunity
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