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Maggots May Help Heal Hard-to-Treat Wounds

Study Shows Maggots Heal Leg Sores in Diabetes Patients
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Cost of Treatment

About 25.8 million children and adults in the U.S. -- 8.3% of the population -- have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. In 2006, about 65,700 lower-limb amputations were performed in people with diabetes.

Medical-grade maggots are fly larvae grown in a hygienic lab so they are germ-free, says Catherine Bennett, PhD, head of the School of Health and Social Development at the Deakin University Australia in Burwood, Australia. She moderated the session at which the findings were presented.

"It's obviously quite a process," she says.

For the study, Eron used larvae of the green bottle fly, purchased from Monarch Labs for about $100 for a two-day cycle. Total treatment cost on average for five cycles: $500.

In contrast, it costs up to $10,000 to treat an uninfected foot ulcer in a person with diabetes; up to $50,000 if amputation is needed, Eron says.

In addition to cost, the main advantage of maggot therapy is it "gets us around the problem of antibiotic resistance," Bennett tells WebMD.

While the treatment appeared safe and effective in this small study, larger, well-designed trials are needed to convince patients as well as doctors, she says.

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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