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Maggots Rid Patients of MRSA

University of Manchester researchers are ridding diabetic patients of the superbug MRSA - by treating their foot ulcers// with maggots.

Professor Andrew Boulton and his team used green bottle fly larvae to treat 13 diabetic patients whose foot ulcers were contaminated with MRSA and found all but one were cured within a mean period of three weeks, much quicker than the 28-week duration for the conventional treatment.

Professor Boulton, who published the results in the journal Diabetes Care, has now been awarded a £98,000 grant by Diabetes UK to carry out a randomized controlled trial to compare this treatment with two others.

"Maggots are the world's smallest surgeons. In fact they are better than surgeons - they are much cheaper and work 24 hours a day," Professor Boulton jokingly said.

"They have been used since the Napoleonic Wars and in the American Civil War they found that those who survived were the ones with maggots in their wounds: they kept them clean. They remove the dead tissue and bacteria, leaving the healthy tissue to heal.

"Still, we were very surprised to see such a good result for MRSA. There is no reason this cannot be applied to many other areas of the body, except perhaps a large abdominal wound."

Professor Boulton and his team, including senior nurse Ann Knowles, have used maggots to treat diabetic foot ulcers of patients attending the Manchester Diabetes Centre and foot clinics, as well as in in-patients at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, for ten years. More recently they found that many of their patients were suffering from MRSA-contaminated foot ulcers, with the rate doubling in a three year period, possibly due to overuse of antibiotics and the selection of broad rather than narrow-spectrum antibacterial agents. This led to their first study, funded by Central Manchester and Manchester Children's University Hospitals NHS Trust (CMMC) Chairman's Prize Award.

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