One Shipment of Medical Maggots, Coming Right Up
The modern application of maggot therapy shares the same concept with its historical predecessors, but features some nice upgrades like sanitation and medicine. After the sore is cleaned, live maggots are placed inside the wound and then covered with a bandage to keep them in place. They eat the dead flesh, which helps clean the wound. They also eliminate bacteria, leaving nice, clean, living flesh behind. And their presence -- and helpful gnawing -- inside the wound spurs cell regeneration and healing. In a few days' time, the maggots and the bandage are changed and replaced. The patient also takes antibiotics throughout treatment. After 10 or so treatments (depending on the severity of the wound), the troublesome dead tissue will be gone, and the extra help will allow the body to heal the wound.
No patient could be faulted for requesting a heavy sedative before the procedure. Often, the patient's discomfort is limited to a severe case of the heebie-jeebies, but sometimes the therapy can be painful, especially in the first few treatments. What causes the pain? Maggots get fat from eating you, and it creates pressure in the wound.
There are many different types of fly (and thus, maggot), and not just any will do. The most commonly used larvae come from the green blowfly (Phaenicia sericata). Maggots used for treatment are grown disease-free and shipped in sterile, disinfected conditions from special laboratories. But medicinal maggots aren't over-the-counter, so save yourself an awkward conversation with a store clerk: A prescription needs to be presented to the lab before shipment. This can be potentially problematic, since few doctors have experience with maggot therapy. Because of this, if you are facing a scenario in which maggot therapy is the only option remaining before amputation, you may need to bring it up and direct your doctor to pursue this remaining treatment option, or find a doctor who will.
Of course, you could apply them yourself (once you have prescription and maggots in hand), but you would need the know-how -- and a strong stomach. You can't just go slathering maggots on your open wounds. Even though they don't normally eat living tissue, maggots will consume healthy flesh if there is overpopulation. Generally, there should be no more than eight maggots per square centimeter of surface in the treatment area [source: Brownstein].
Besides diabetes, what other conditions might call for maggot therapy?