Sept. 22, 2011 (Chicago) -- Maggots helped to heal the wounds of people with diabetes after multiple traditional treatments had failed, a small study shows.
Leg and foot sores in 27 of 37 people with diabetes healed after treatment with medical maggots. The wounds had been open for several months to five years.
Medical-grade maggots basically chew away dead flesh, leaving live tissue unscathed, says researcher Lawrence Eron, MD, of the University of Hawaii. They also appear to disinfect the wound and stimulate healing.
Maggots don't completely close wounds. "But there's 50% or more closure," he says.
"These little critters may allow [patients] to heal and avoid amputation or at least delay it so they can live the rest of their lives with their limbs intact," he tells WebMD.
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. At the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy here, Eron flashed before-and-after photos showing a gangrenous foot ulcer healing after so-called maggot debridement therapy.
The doctors wanted to amputate the leg before the treatment, Eron says.