A fly can lay up to 300 eggs at a time, and its preferred place to lay them is a soft bed of rotting flesh. Maggots -- the larvae that emerge from these eggs -- feast on the tissue, using mouth hooks to scoop up the fluids oozing out of the decaying flesh. Meanwhile, they secrete enzymes that further break down dead tissue and stimulate cell regeneration.
Maggots are usually found on corpses, so why on Earth would a living person want these creepy crawlies on his or her skin?
In the United States alone, there are more than 23 million diabetics, and the disease kills a quarter of a million people every year [source: American Diabetes Association]. Over time, diabetes -- a disease that affects the ability of the pancreas to regulate blood sugar -- causes many health problems, including neuropathy, or damage to the nerves, which often occurs in the legs and feet. Also, blood vessels become hard and narrow, impeding circulation of oxygen-rich blood and nutrients to the feet. Untreated calluses on the feet of diabetics can develop into open sores known as ulcers. If these ulcers aren't treated promptly and effectively, they can become infections. In time, the infection can move to nearby bones.
Diabetics with circulation problems (especially smokers) have trouble healing ulcers on their feet. To treat diabetic foot ulcers, doctors must remove as much dead tissue around the sore as possible, boosting the body's ability to fight infection and heal the wound. If the condition worsens or infection spreads, the only recourse may be amputation of the toes, foot or even the lower leg. There are more than 70,000 toe, foot and leg amputations performed each year on diabetics in America [source: CDC]. It has been estimated that limb amputations related to diabetes occur every 30 seconds around the world [source: Reuters].
How do you heal the wound and avoid amputation? One ancient practice for cleaning open sores has been gaining new awareness among doctors and patients alike: maggot therapy.
Maggot therapy has been rediscovered over and over throughout the history of man. It's an easy discovery to make: Flies lay eggs on undressed wounds, and those eggs hatch within a day. Before the arrival of antibiotics, it became clear that injured people whose untreated wounds were infected with maggots healed quicker than those whose wounds were maggot-free.
So, can you pick up medicinal maggots at the corner drugstore? Read on to find out.