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Ryan Chen


Maggot Therapy
Maggot therapy is a biomedical method for the debridement of wounds. Put
simply, it is the placement of medicinal maggots on dead tissue and allowing them to
eat all of the dead flesh. It is a FDA approved medical device defined to be used for the
purpose of, debridement of non-healing necrotic skin and soft tissue wounds such
as pressure ulcers, neuropathic foot ulcers, chronic leg ulcers, or non-healing traumatic
or post-operative wounds. Despite how disgusting it may appear, it is an easy to use,
safe, and effective method.
Maggot therapy is a therapy in which maggots infest an open exterior wound and
are used to eat dead tissue. The type of maggots used for medicinal purposes does not
eat living flesh and is of the blow fly species. Maggots also provide a benefit besides
just eating the deceased flesh; they secrete enzymes that destroy bacteria and also
stimulate the living flesh to heal faster. The therapy doesnt necessarily heal the wound
faster than conventional methods of removal of dead tissue, but it does clean it faster,
about eighteen times faster.
The process in which maggot therapy works is quite simple. First, medicinalgrade maggots, sterile laboratory-grown maggots, are placed inside the infected area.
The area is then securely covered in gauze so that maggots do not escape and are
allowed to debride and feast upon the flesh. After three to four days, when the maggots
have eaten their fill, they are replaced. After about ten treatments, the infected area
should be healed. Afterwards, the healthy tissue should heal and fill up the area where
the infected area used to be.

Ryan Chen

Maggot therapy is used somewhat commonly with diabetic patients. Due to

complications with blood flow, they are often prone to getting cut without knowing it and
having the area become infected. As expected, maggot therapy is an excellent method
of cleaning and removing the flesh if it grows out of hand. Maggot therapy is also used
with those with circulatory issues or nerve issues due to the same reason as diabetics.
Maggot therapy isnt a new medical procedure; it was known that those with maggots in
wounds would have a higher chance of surviving than those who didnt. Also, the act of
using them for medicinal purposes appeared around World War I, until it died down
during the rise of antibiotics. Maggot therapy was reintroduced by companies such as
International Biotherapy Society and BioTherapeutics, Education and Research
Foundation. Nowadays, medicinal maggots are still somewhat unpopular, but a viable
choice for those who have necrosis (dead flesh). Maggot therapy tends to be more of
choice if other options fail, but is not a last resort either. Any doctor is able to prescribe
medicinal maggots, although some may be unwilling as many do not have experience
with it. It is possible to self-medicate but it is not recommended as maggots will eat
living flesh if overpopulation occurs. It is generally recommended to have only eight
maggots per square centimeter. Although maggot therapy works, it is unpopular to both
the patient and the doctor most times.
There are very few risks of maggot therapy, there are no serious repercussions
should it fail. In some patients, they may feel mild discomfort or pain from the maggots,
especially when they are growing. Also, if maggots manage to escape the gauze and
touch skin, it will irritate the skin and possibly leave a rash. Lastly, wounds should never
be allowed to close over the maggots and the wound should be thoroughly cleaned after

Ryan Chen

each treatment. The maggots and gauze should be disposed of completely and properly
and is to be treated as bio-hazardous materials.
Overall, maggot therapy is not a perfect method of curing ulcers and necrotic
flesh, but it certainly is a good, viable alternative. It may not be the choice from most
people but it certainly does work. However, it is quite an interesting pursuit in biomedical
sciences with symbiotic relationships between humans and parasites in medical
pursuits. I truly believe that research in such a field could lead to many scientific
advances as there are very few well known biomedical advances using actual living

The Maggot Cycle

The specie used by Medical Maggots ("blow flies", Calliphoridae) takes 8-24 hours to
hatch from eggs, 4-7 days as larva, 10-20 days as pupa before they become adults.
This is important as maggot therapy works only with maggots, or larvae, not with living
flies inside flesh wounds.

Ryan Chen

Maggot debridement therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved February 5, 2014, from Dermnetnz
website: http://dermnetnz.org/procedures/maggots.html
Medical Maggots. (n.d.). Retrieved February 5, 2014, from Monarch Labs website:
Scheve, T. (n.d.). What is maggot therapy? Retrieved February 5, 2014, from
Howstuffworks website: http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/human-biology/

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