Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lovely, Little, Flesh Eaters

In honor of Halloween coming up, I figured that this week I will spotlight "creepy crawly" critters and their ability to help us heal. Enjoy!

Yesterday I talked about how to close a wound using ants, but sometimes it's better for a wound not to be closed.  Even the ones that you do close, you usually want to clean them out first. 

That's where maggots come in handy.

Again, I was introduced to these creatures' healing power through Diana Gabaldon, an amazing author who writes books that take place in the 18th century (as well as other time periods).  This time the reference is in the book Drums of Autumn.  Here's the quote from that book:

"It works," I said, frowning slightly as I opened another incision and deposited three of the wiggling white larvae. "Much better than the usual means of debridement; for that, I'd have to open up your foot much more extensively, and physically scrape out as much dead tissue as I could reach-which would not only hurt like the dickens, it would likely cripple you permanently.  Our little friends here eat dead tissue, though; they can get into tiny places where I couldn't reach, and do a nice, thorough job."
"Our friends the maggots," Brianna muttered.  "God, Mama!"
"What, exactly, is going to stop them eating my entire leg?" Roger asked with a thoroughly spurious attempt at detachment.  "They ... um ... they spread, don't they?"
"Oh, no," I assured him cheerfully.  "Maggots are larval forms; they don't breed.  They also don't eat live tissue- only the nasty dead stuff.  If there's enough to get them through their pupal cycle, they'll develop into tiny flies and fly off- if not, when the food's exhausted, they'll simply crawl out, searching for more."
(Diana Gabaldon, Drums of Autum 1997.)

Not all maggots are equal though.
Blowfly larva = good guys
These guys are actually baby "house flies"
that we shoo away from our food and drinks.
Screwworm fly larva = bad guys
These guys are biters when they grow up as well.
Some maggots will eat live flesh so you can't just walk outside and just collect random maggots to use.  In fact, you will need to get a prescription from a doctor and get the prescription filled, but you are able to apply the maggots yourself.  

The doctor might take some convincing that maggots are the way to go but you can show your doctor the research.  One study found maggots more cost effective, L82 for complete maggot treatment versus L503 for traditional debridement.  Plus, they helped the wound heal much quicker!  You could also lead your doctor to this cool site that addresses common misconceptions about maggot therapy.

Lastly, your pets don't need to miss out on maggot therapy!  Horses can have maggots clean out their hoof wounds.

Maybe we should start looking at maggots lovingly, like this:


  1. So I had commented on this last night, but I guess I didn't submit it all the way. I said Phoebe ate some in Alaska, would that have any effect?

  2. I think that the acids in her stomach probably killed them. But it's interesting that you asked that. Check my blog on Friday and you'll see why.


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