24 October 2004

Maggots Regain Medical Respect

MerckSource carries an AP report on reviving the use of maggots to disinfect open sores.
TOKYO - Dr. Hideya Mitsui's patients were in trouble - diabetes-triggered lesions on their feet weren't responding to antibiotics, and amputation was the next step.

So Mitsui turned to an unsightly remedy he says has never used before in Japan: maggots.

The maggots, once used by Australian Aborigines and Native Americans in the days before antibiotics, have been credited with curing three of the five cases Mitsui was treating. Two others are still being treated.

"This old therapy is great," said Mitsui, a heart surgeon at Okayama University Hospital in western Japan. He started the treatment in March.

Under the therapy, maggot larva are placed in the wound, where they dissolve dead infected tissue and secrete a substance that disinfects the lesion.

Mitsui leaves the larva in the lesion for a week, then replaces them with fresh maggots. The process is repeated about three times over two weeks.

Maggot therapy was used in the United States but was largely discontinued with the growing popularity of antibiotics in the 1940s. Mitsui said the therapy is still used in Britain.

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