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Maggots Quickly Clean Up Wounds, Study Shows
Date:12/20/2011

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Dec. 20 (HealthDay News) -- The surgeons' scalpel may have new (and wriggling) competition in cleaning troublesome wounds: maggots.

To the uninitiated the treatment may seem strange. But new French research suggests that bagging up live, sterile fly larvae in tightly meshed dressing packs and applying them to open sores can be a quick, safe and effective way to clear away dead tissue.

Actually, "maggot debridement therapy" (MDT) has a long history in medicine. And the new investigation suggests that this approach -- traditionally reserved for more severe wounds -- can be a quick, first-line therapy for less severe lesions.

"Twenty years ago, maggot therapy was performed mostly as a 'last resort' prior to amputation," for the treatment of non-healing wounds, explained Dr. Ronald A. Sherman, a "biotherapeutics" researcher at the University of California, Irvine, and the Los Angeles and Orange County health departments. He was not involved in the new study.

Sherman noted that past studies found that when used as a last resort (after antibiotics and surgery failed), maggot therapy eliminated the need for amputations in an estimated 40 to 60 percent of cases.

The treatment has gained ever-broader acceptance in recent years, with studies touting its safety record and effectiveness in less severe, non-emergency situations.

"(This) is one of those studies, and clearly supports those who include maggot therapy as part of their wound-care tool bag," Sherman said, by suggesting "that there is no reason to delay maggot therapy until the wound and underlying diseases have progressed."

The study, published online Dec. 19 in the Archives of Dermatology, was led by Dr. Kristina Opletalova, from the department of dermatology at the University of Caen Basse-Normandie at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Caen in Caen, France.

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