Maggots' Taste For Flesh May Cure Leg Ulcers

Sherman, who has done a number of trials on maggot therapy during the years, said that he had not observed anything similar in humans. Although he noted that he tries to avoid having too many maggots on a wound, recommending five to eight maggots per square centimeter.

During her treatment, Mitchell said, there were too many maggots in her foot, which caused some pain when they swelled up after eating the dead tissue.

"When they come out, they're fat, like puffed rice," Mitchell said.

Not Very Controversial but Not Very Well Known

Dermatologists contacted by ABCNews.com said the therapy appeared to be effective overall, but was clearly not well known.

No Maggot Therapy in Medical School

"If it works, what's wrong with it?" said Dr. Eliot Ghatan, a dermatologist in Brooklyn, N.Y. "If you have a fancy medication here, it doesn't mean you can throw out effective therapeutic methods of the past."

He added, however, that, "It's not very well known. When you go to medical school, they don't teach you about maggot therapy."

Dr. Conway Huang, director of dermatologic surgery and cutaneous laser surgery at the University of Alabama, echoed those statements.

"It's not something that is taught to doctors in training. Residency programs ... we don't teach our residents this," he said. "Current methods of wound healing are probably more convenient and nearly as effective, if not as effective."

Despite their familiarity with the therapy, neither Ghatan nor Huang have performed it on a patient or had it requested by a patient.

For his part, Sherman said that while his own experience has been different, he was pleased that a maggot study was published.

"I think it's great news that they finally did a study of maggot therapy that follows patients all the way to wound closure," he said.

The therapy was researched heavily in the 1930s by Dr. William Baer at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, but was ultimately replaced by antibiotics, which remain the standard of care.

Considering All Options

The British study, commissioned by the National Health Service, was done, in part, to determine the cost effectiveness of maggot therapy versus regular therapy. The researchers concluded that there was not a significant difference in cost effectiveness.

Sherman attributes that to the fact that the form of maggot therapy examined in the British study used more conventional drugs than his own version of the treatment.

While Sherman does not believe conventional treatments should be abandoned as the first line of treatment against skin ulcers, he hopes that maggot therapy will be recognized as an alternative when conventional therapies do not heal patients.

No One Product Works for Everybody

"Neither maggot therapy nor the standard of care is 100 percent effective, or else there wouldn't be 2,000 wound-care products on the market," he said. "The reason there are so many wound-care products is there isn't a single product that works for everybody, so what you want to do is pick something that has the best chance of efficacy.

"If that doesn't work, then you need an alternative, and you want that alternative to have the best chance."

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