In the next installment of "How creepy crawly things can be used for health purposes," researchers have shown that maggots are promising in helping diabetes-related wounds to heal.
The research, presented at the recent Interscience Conference on Anti-Microbial Agents and Chemotherapy, shows that leaving maggots on the wounds (also known as maggot debridement treatment) for several days could help to rid a wound of infection, remove dead tissue and help new tissue to form.
"Maggot debridement treatment is overwhelmingly effective. After just one treatment these wounds start looking better," study researcher Lawrence Eron, of Kaiser Hospital and the University of Hawaii, told Reuters.
To test the effectiveness of the maggots, researchers applied 50 to 100 medical grade maggots each to the wounds of 27 people with complicated diabetes wounds. They let the maggots do their magic for two days, then put new maggots on the wounds, repeating the process for about five times, Reuters reported.
For 21 patients, the secretions from the maggots helped to fight infection in the wounds and stimulate factors that "result in accelerated healing," researchers wrote in the study.
Skin problems as a result of diabetes are common, affecting up to 33 percent of people with diabetes, the American Diabetes Association reported. And diabetic wounds can be hard to treat. Some of the people in the study had had the wounds for five years, having no luck with treatments. If a wound is not infected, it can still cost up to $7,000 to treat, researchers said; and if it does become infected and causes the limb to need to be amputated, that surgery can cost as much as $65,000.
However, enough maggots for two treatments cost just $100, researchers reported.
The idea of having bugs thriving on your body may give you the heeby-jeebies. But if "you're faced with amputation or the maggots, I think most people would try the maggots," Pamela Mitchell, who was facing amputation of her left foot because of infection, told the Associated Press back in 2004. Ten cycles of treatment with the larvae led to complete healing of her foot, according to the AP.
However, it's important to note that maggots used for wound care aren't just any old maggots you might find in your trash. They are specially bred sterile maggots, grown in laboratories, to be used for medicinal purposes. According to Medscape, the FDA in 2004 cleared them as "medical devices," and Medicare reimburses for maggot therapy.
Another kind of creepy-crawly that's been in the news for good reason is the leech -- a kind of blood-sucking worm. Recently, a woman had 358 leeches put on her face to help restart circulation after a dog attacked her.