Monday, February 13, 2012

Medical Mondays: The Squirmiest Therapy

Today, I'm going to talk about larval, or maggot therapy.

Please don't puke. Not yet, at least!

I have a pretty strong stomach but even this subject matter made me a little queasy. I had to write this post using "----" instead of maggot. By the end of writing it, I got over it. Hopefully you will too.

Maggot Debridement Therapy, or MDT, is a biotherapy that involves live, disinfected fly larvae placed in a non-healing wound or ulcer.

History
MBD has been around since ancient times. It was used by the Mayans, the Aborigine in Australia, and was noted during the Napoleonic wars and the Civil war that certain wounds covered with maggots tended to heal better and the patients died less often.

How does it work?
Apparently, the larvae exude a substance that helps to dissolve dead and dying tissues. The maggots then absorb and ingest the liquified substance and end up cleaning out the wound. The healthy tissue is, for the most part, unaffected. Some believe that MDT is even more effective at cleaning this type of wound that a surgeon could.

What about infection?
There's an automatic reaction to think that maggots are "dirty" and would cause more, not less, infection. The truth is that dead tissue is the perfect medium for bacteria to grow. By removing this medium, they actually lessen the chance of infection. Furthermore, maggots exude chemicals that kill bacteria and have a wide-range of bacteria killing activity, even against resistant bacteria like MRSA.

Er...what about the yuck factor?
Maggots can be concealed in a special covering to hide them. They will not lay eggs or multiply in the wound, as they are only larvae, not adult flies. Also, the dressings are designed to let the larvae breath and reduce the tickling sensation of them crawling all over. Er, yuck.

Is this legal?
MDT was FDA approved in 2004 as a prescription-only medical device.

What about in fictional scenarios? 
Remember the movie Gladiator, with Russel Crowe? MDT was used on his shoulder wound.
In Diana Gabalson's Outlander series, there's a physician that uses MDT. Neat, huh?

Okay. Sorry to totally gross you out!

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60 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

Sometimes the gross stuff is the coolest!

Old Kitty said...

I do know there's a use for leeches in this day and age - they suck out or feed or just really like dead tissue or something!! Yay!

Take care
x

Em-Musing said...

I don't think MDT is icky. I think Mother Nature is cool to provide us with such a simple solution to infections. So why isn't MDT being used more often? Is it because there's no profit in maggots? LOve that Mayans used this technique. Now that I'm living in Mexico, I LOve to learn more of the Mayan culture.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Gross, but interesting that it works and it's still being used. Thanks for sharing.

Anne Gallagher said...

I watched this on tv once on a medical show. Totally gross, but it worked for the poor man who was suffering.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Sometimes, the old-fashioned methods work best!

Maggots are back. Can leeches be far behind?

Louise Bates said...

That is definitely disgusting (at least to my modern sensibilities), but really quite fascinating, to see how Nature is designed to take care of itself. Also, since I have had a fantasy story simmering for AGES involving a fictional culture based on the Mayans, this is just the sort of info that might come in handy to add a touch of realism to any after-battle scenes!

Miranda Hardy said...

This is, by far, my biggest fear of all time. I hate worms and maggots. I'm even getting cremated because of that fear. Throw me in a vat of snakes before maggots. Lol

SA Larsenッ said...

I'll ditto Laura! The first time I ever heard about this was as my dad was sharing a story from his days serving in Vietnam. He's never shared much, but he did mention a story about a fellow solder's wound and maggots. I never, ever forgot that story.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Yes, the scene from Gladiator sprang to mind immediately. Still, not a chance!

Karen Lange said...

Okay, so I'll pass on this, but thanks for the info!

Emily Rose said...

ooh that's yucky!! But whatever heals a wound...I guess that's the most important thing.

B.E. Sanderson said...

I recognize the possible benefits of MDT, but maggots totally gross me out. Can't touch 'em. Can barely look at 'em. In fact, I almost didn't read this post. And now I feel like I need to slather myself in Purell.

Jessica R. Patch said...

I'll admit I was as fascinated as grossed out...ok almost as fascinated! :)

Grumpy Bulldog, Media Mogul said...

I remember that in Gladiator. It was pretty nasty. It's probably better than leeches though.

Jax said...

I work with a very diverse group of cultures. There are a few here that still practice that type of medicine. If it saves lives, you get over queasiness! Great post!

Emy Shin said...

The idea of this is slightly gross, but as a medical treatment, that's really, really cool. :)

Colin Smith said...

At least they are *disinfected* fly larvae! As usual an informative article, Lydia.

Not that you need to be told how awesome and creative your blog is, but I have given you a Kreativ Blogger award. Check out my blog for more details. Congratulations!

K. Turley (Clutzattack) said...

That is so gross, and interesting.

I think I'd rather shave off the ulcer with a potato peeler. You'd have to knock me out for that sort of treatment.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Isn't this kind of along the same idea as those fish that clean/nibble people's toes in those fish pond things? Although this is more specific to a festering wound. Very interesting!

Munk said...

Firstly: How does one go about disinfecting fly larvae?

Secondly: "debridement therapy" sounds more like quicky divorce.

Connie Keller said...

Extremely cool!! I can't wait to tell my boys about it--they'll love it.

Thanks!!

Connie Keller said...

My guys now think you're awesome. :)

Artemis Grey said...

Ooooh Super Cool! I've never had this done but I'd be totally open to it, although, I hope I never have a wound so bad off that it needed this kind of treatment. Even though it might be icky, there's something I really love about using nature to heal things. There are times with the horses when the ONLY way to get the infection out a wound is to let the maggots do their thing. You wouldn't believe how much better the horses heal that way.

@Munk, the fly larvae are bred under sterile conditions, in the same way that medical leeches are bred under sterile conditions. And no, I'm not sure what defines 'sterile' other than the fact that the larvae are something like third generation bred in special labs and have thusly never come into contact with any outside contaminates.

L.C. said...

I totally read that with the so-gross-but-can't-look-away thing going on. Really, really fascinating. Thanks, Lydia!

Jennifer Hillier said...

I was just gonna say, this totally reminds me of the scene in Gladiator! But still, it's so ewwwww....

Great post!

Linda Gray said...

Gross. But I've watched enough episodes of Bones and of House to be pretty hardcore. (Yeah, right.) This is fascinating--especially the part about maggots exuding chemicals that kill bacteria. I had no idea. (But still, yuck)

Barbara Watson said...

LOVE the movie Gladiator and I remember the scene your talking about. This is an interesting and gross treatment. In writing, it would be something so useful to know for those wilderness books.

Scarlet Wilson said...

I'm a nurse in Scotland and have seen these used in our vascular ward with great effect - no ick factor involved!

Mary Gray said...

What a fun and disgusting topic! Yeah, I vaguely remember Crowe having this done in The Gladiator.
What a great idea for a skittish character to go through in a book!

Krispy said...

Totally gross, but I actually knew about this one! It was on an episode of Supernatural. Great for grossness and creeps! Thanks (I think?) for the more in-depth detail!

vbtremper said...

Before becoming a teacher, I worked with doctors. I've lived in group situations with doctors. I've eaten meals with doctors. I'm not easily grossed out. This post was a tricky one for me. LOL! But, I think putting it in context helped, so thank you.

-Vicki

Coleen Patrick said...

It's still intriguing--although it would be really creepy to see a "moving" bandage!

Carol Kilgore said...

Eewww...I feel as if I need a hot shower. But hey, whatever works. A little bit of creepy crawly is a pretty good trade off to get rid of a bad infection or dead skin off a wound, I'd say.

Ghenet Myrthil said...

Really interesting but SO gross! Hope I never have to experience this.

mooderino said...

Not something I'll be trying at home *shudder*

mood

Carrie Butler said...

Eeek! That was definitely squirm-worthy. Great post, as always! :)

Colene Murphy said...

Totally grossly legit, though! I'm a happy fan of maggots helping to heal. ONLY because a mommy kitty brought me one of her babies that was in distress (long story...she had crazy cat mom trust in me with several of her litters) It looked like you could see the poor babies brain through his ear, but upon vet investigation it was infested with maggots. The little guy had such a bad infection, deep in its head, the maggots saved his baby life! It was icky when they were mostly cleaned out and a few would just...plop out while he was being bottle fed, but whatever...

Liza said...

I almost couldn't read this...but then I forced myself. If it works, it works...I'll have to get over my squeamishness.

Lorelei said...

It's odd how we get this idea about something that it's bad and think eww yuck. I think that the more natural remidies may be getting a return visit.

Very cool stuff. Definitely put this over on my "favorites" list. never know when I might need it for a story!

LTM said...

oh, no no no! I've actually heard of this before you wrote about it. My dad, who's from a small town in Miss., talked about a doctor using this on an old man who had like diabetes or something and his foot wouldn't heal. Crazy. But it's like nature's way, right?

So-Miss sci-fi... wondering if I can use this now... :D <3

Clarissa Draper said...

I don't think it's gross. In fact, I'll keep that in mind for future stories. Thanks.

Belle said...

My mother had a friend who had diabetes. Her feet went black and she had sores on her legs that wouldn't heal. She has already died - she was in her nineties. Would maggots fix this?

Alleged Author said...

Ooooh... ew, ew, ew!!! Great post though. :)

Deb Salisbury said...

Oh, major yuck! But very interesting information. (Even if my dinner is really unhappy with you. ;-)

julie fedderson said...

When I trained in Houston, they had both maggots AND leeches available for wound care. The plastic surgeons used them quite a bit. Yummy maggot goodness.

Olga said...

Such posts, with such medical details, can only be read with eyes popping out :)

Leslie Rose said...

If the maggot fits... This is actually fascinating. We were just talking about leeches and frostbite in my 5th grade class today. Wait 'til I hit them with maggot fun. Good times.

Jay Noel said...

That is very nasty, but fascinating as well. But when faced with either getting gangrene or using maggots to clean your would and prevent amputation, guess what - maggots win!

How about the carp that eat dead skin from your feet. That's so bizarre, but it's supposed to work. However, I believe several states have banned it, calling it unsanitary.

Kelly Polark said...

I saw that on a medical show once. It's natural! If it works, why not? (though I hope I never need it!)

Walt Mussell said...

I was reminded of The African Queen. Bogart is pulling the boat through a stream and then realizes he's covered in leeches. Hepburn uses something to make the leeches fall off. Bogart really sells it when he has to get back into the water to pull the boat again, knowing he'll get covered in leeches again.

Jessica Salyer said...

I'm a nurse in the operating room and I've done a lot of wound debridements, but never seen fly larvae used. It sounds interesting though. I just wonder how easy they are to remove.

Susan Oloier said...

It make be gross, but it sure is interesting.

Sarah said...

Aw, Lydia, this wasn't so bad (only because I'd already heard of it ... and read it on an empty stomach...)

Donna Hole said...

Cool, actually. I've heart larvae are used to treat burn patients too . .

Fascinating.

.......dhole

LisaAnn said...

OMG, I can feel the maggots squirming on my invisible wound underneath my invisible bandages!! Well done, my dear!

Steph said...

I knew I had seen that in a Movie! Hey, if it works, at least its all natural!

Nick said...

Oh yeah, gotta love maggot therapy. Wish I could train them to eat my kidney stones!

lbdiamond said...

Gross. But it works, right?

Maurice Mitchell said...

I have to admit I avoided reading this post for a while. MDT sounds like a viable medical procedure. Interesting post Lydia.

 
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