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Friday 21st October 2016

Maggots can save diabetics' limbs

27th September 2011

Treatment with maggots may be one of the best options for diabetic patients wishing to avoid amputation in the event of a serious wound, according to a recent US study.


Diabetes often comes hand in hand with poor circulation to the limbs, which presents problems in the event of an infected wound, especially if the infection is caused by a superbug.

Lead author Lawrence Eron, a doctor at Kaiser Hospital and a researcher at the University of Hawaii, said that patients with diabetes needed better treatments.

He said that using maggots was very effective, producing noticeably good results.

Usually, when faced with a diabetic wound, doctors attempt to remove tissue that has died or become infected using scalpels.

Another method uses enzymes to remove the tissue.

But the wounds may take a very long time to heal, and some of the people who took part in the recent study had already had their wounds for five years.

Eron said that the method he and his researchers used involved caging the maggots in a very fine mesh, similar to nylon panty hose.

After the maggots have been sealed inside the mesh, they begin to ingest the patient's dead tissue much more efficiently and cleanly than the methods doctors usually use.

For the study, the researchers first recruited 37 diabetics, all of whom suffered from long-lasting wounds due to poor limb circulation.

The researchers gave their subjects between 50 and 100 maggots (Lucilia sericata) at a time, which they left in for two days.

After repeating the procedure about five times, many of the patients saw considerable improvement.

Twenty-one of the original 37 patients eradicated their infections, removed all dead tissue, formed robust connective tissue, and closed the wound by about 75%.

All the patients who were infected with MRSA saw their wounds heal by the end of the therapy.

In addition, all 10 cases of B streptococci infection were completely healed.

In patients in whom the treatment did not work, three had infected bones, and two experienced too much bleeding.

Another had too much inflammation surrounding the wound for the treatment to be effective.

Eron said that, while a lot of patients might be afraid of having live insects placed in their wounds, it was possible to explain the procedure to patients in a way that made them feel more comfortable.

He said that, following about five doses of maggot therapy, he and his researchers would usually add hydrogels, cell culture grafts, and other dressings, and that the maggots helped pave the way for those techniques by cleansing the wound thoroughly and assisting robust granulation tissue formation.


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