People with diabetes can develop skin lesions that may be hard to treat. Because of poor circulation, these wounds can become infected and are slow to heal. Doctors go to heroic measures to treat them. That can sometimes involve surgery, but the process can be painful and the skin problems can recur. In the most extreme cases, these wounds may lead to amputation.

Now, doctors in Hawaii report that they have had success with maggot therapy for diabetic wounds. The maggots are extremely effective at removing dead cells and encouraging the growth of healthy tissue. The physicians treated 37 patients with long-lasting lesions. Up to 100 maggots were used on each wound. Almost two thirds experienced definite benefit. The infection disappeared, the dead tissue was removed and fresh connective tissue, which promoted healing, formed in the wound. Even MRSA infections improved with maggot therapy. Before this approach can become widespread, more rigorous studies will be needed. This unusual approach seems to be a rediscovery of an ancient healing tradition.

[Interscience Conference on Anti-Microbial Agents and Chemotherapy, Sept. 19, 2011]

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  1. Martha

    About 60 years ago in Lancaster County PA, a young farmer fell into a stable (I think from the straw mow)and had a serious break in his leg. Infection set in and I remember hearing that amputation was considered. Before they amputated they tried introducing maggots to eat the decaying flesh. It worked and they saved his leg although I remember him walking with a bit of a limp.

  2. a.s.

    a few years ago i heard a related story. it was on this program or one of the NPR news programs, and yes, the results were uniformly positive.

  3. DS

    My grandfather was bayoneted in the stomach as a soldier in World War I. His comrades in the Belgian Army left him with water, assuming he’d be dead when they could get back to him. He watched the maggots eating his dead flesh. He said the maggots saved him.

  4. RLH

    Again some proof to me that some of our old approaches for health problems can still be the best. The side affects? Healthy tissue growth! Sounds like a winner to me :0)

  5. W.H.

    Have read in many alternative publications about using sugar or raw honey on a dressing to heal hard to heal wounds & sore’s.

  6. Sue

    My husband and I help care for a local feral cat colony. On one occasion, we found a kitten with severe wounds to her legs and hips. She was also covered in maggots. The emergency vet said she likely would not have survived if it had not been for the maggots, since they kept the wounds from getting infected or affected by gangrene before we found her. Thanks to the vet and the maggots, she recovered nicely and found a new home in another state.

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