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22-12-2011 | Article

Maggots help wounds heal faster

Abstract

Free abstract

MedWire News: Maggots are a promising and medically effective way to promote wound healing - albeit not for the squeamish, French researchers believe.

They found that wounds healed much faster - usually within 1 week - when they were treated with maggot rather than with conventional wound dressings.

Maggot therapy - also known as maggot debridement therapy (MDT) or larval therapy - has been used for thousands of years. It involves placing live, sterile maggots (fly larvae) onto the wound. The maggots then dissolve and eat the dead and dying tissue, leaving the wound clean and better able to heal.

Unsurprisingly, patients and doctors can find maggot therapy distasteful, so the maggots may be enclosed in opaque bags to hide them from sight. Wound dressings can also be designed to prevent any maggots from escaping and to minimize the uncomfortable tickling sensation.

In this study, Dr Anne Dompmartin (Universitaire de Caen, France) and colleagues set out to test, in a methodologically controlled way, the effectiveness of maggot therapy.

They recruited 119 patients with non-healing ulcers on their legs. The patients were randomly allocated to have their wounds dressed conventionally (ie, normal bandage and wound cleaned three times weekly with a scalpel) or with the maggot dressing.

By day 8, the amount of "slough" - or dead skin tissue - was much lower in patients with the maggot dressing than in those with a normal wound dressing.

This suggests that maggot therapy helps wounds to heal faster than normal, say the researchers.

However, after day 8 the rate of wound healing was similar with maggots and normal bandages, meaning that maggot dressings should be removed after the first week and replaced with another type of dressing.

Dr Dompmartin and team also admit that other questions remain unanswered about maggot therapy - for example, would using more maggots per dressing cause better healing? And can maggots be used to promote healing in other types of wounds?

"Further studies are needed to answer these questions," they write.

MedWire (http://www.medwire-news.md/) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Joanna Lyford