Maggot therapy is the use of maggots, or fly larvae, to clean and promote healing in open wounds. Also known as Maggot Debridement Therapy (MDT), it is one of the safest and most effective ways to treat open wounds that are either infected or covered in dead flesh. The larvae used for maggot therapy are raised in clean fly farms, and disinfected prior to use in either humans or animals. The most common types of fly larvae used are from green flies and blow flies, although other species of flies may also be used.
The use of maggot therapy to treat wounds has been round for hundreds of years; there is even proof of it being used in ancient Mayan civilization. It was also used during Europe's Renaissance period. Many of the most notable stories about the use of maggot therapy, however, come from times of war. The medics during the American Civil War, during which medical supplies were scarce, made great use of maggots to treat war wounds, probably saving hundreds of lives. Maggots were also used in both of the World Wars.
The scientific study and use of maggot therapy in America started in the late 1920s. Scientists observed that maggots cut down on the smell of the wounds they were applied to and sped up healing, and soon the use of maggots became more widespread. During the 1930s and 1940s, over 100 medical papers were written on this form of therapy, and hundreds of patients were treated. The use of maggots died off, however, when penicillin became more widely available in the mid-1940s.
There are several ways that maggots facilitate the healing of wounds. The first way is to eat the necrotic, or dead, flesh, making it easier for new skin to grow. They also eat any bacteria in the wound. The secretions of maggots contain several types of antibacterial matter, which kills any bacteria the maggots have not eaten while also preventing any new bacteria from infecting the wound. Maggots also massage the wound as they move around, which also helps to encourage healing and the growth of new skin.
Maggot therapy was reintroduced in the 1990s. Since then, the use of maggots has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, and has been researched through several intense medical studies. Improvements in the use of maggots, including the introduction of a poultice that keeps the maggots in place and out of site, have made them a more effective treatment option. Maggots are being more widely used as a way to combat antibacterial resistant strains of bacteria in open, wet wounds. Although there are limits to how maggot therapy can be used, there are more and more doctors and hospitals reintroducing maggot therapy as safe, cost effective option for many conditions.