Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Maggots, Worms: Scary Medicine Goes Mainstream

Offbeat treatments, both old and new, are 'eeek-ing' their way into more common practice.

Maggots Heal Deep Wounds

You've gotta love 'em. Maggots have a big job, and they're good at it -- eating dead skin and tissue, whether it's on roadkilled animals or a living human being. In the early 20th century, maggots were used to treat human bone and tissue infections.

It's called maggot therapy, and it involves larvae called Phaenica sericata. The larvae are disinfected before they're used, so they won't make an infection worse. Twice a week, the larvae are placed on a wound and left there for 48 to 72 hours. The maggots only eat the dead tissue, leaving healthy tissue intact, a process called debridement.

The maggot larvae are thought to secrete substances that fight infection.

New research has revived maggot therapy. In a recent study, wounds that got presurgical maggot therapy developed no infections after surgery, according to the report in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

When wounds didn't get maggot therapy, about one-third developed an infection. Also, surgical closure of those wounds fell apart.

Read on for more details about maggot therapy.

Gila Monster Spit Helps Diabetes

It's true, spit from the Gila monster -- a less-than-friendly lizard -- has medical use.

A drug derived from Gila monster saliva appears to help people with type 2 diabetes gain control over their blood sugar. It's a welcome alternative when other commonly used drugs have failed to work.

Another plus: The new drug, called Byetta, may help drop a few pounds. Some other diabetes drugs can cause weight gain, a big frustration for people trying to control their diabetes.

The medication works by stimulating insulin secretion in response to high blood sugars. Byetta also inhibits glucagon, a hormone that helps increase blood sugars.

Read more about this new diabetes treatment.

Worm Eggs Ease Stomach Problems

Swallowing live worm eggs? The thought may turn your stomach. But the eggs may safely relieve the abdominal distress caused by inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are two major components of IBD that cause inflammation and ulcers in the lining of the digestive tract.

In underdeveloped countries with poor sanitary conditions, IBD is practically nonexistent. Researchers have speculated that it's because parasitic worms are abundant, living in the intestines of humans and animals. Even in the U.S., before plumbing and sanitation improved, there was little IBD.

In one recent study, seven people with IBD swallowed a solution containing thousands of eggs of Trichuris suis, which is known as a "whipworm." Every two weeks, they got doses of the solution -- with great results, reports lead researcher Robert W. Summers, MD, a gastroenterologist with the University of Iowa College of Medicine.

Some of the patients have been taking the worm egg solution "for years now and are doing well," Summers says.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 and you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Woman holding cake
Slideshow
feet
Slideshow
 
man organizing pills
Slideshow
Close up of eye
Slideshow
 

Woman serving fast food from window
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Video
 
Middle aged person
Tool
are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article
 

WebMD Special Sections