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When 18 veterans with diabetes who had a total of 20 nonhealing foot ulcers were treated either with conventional therapy or with maggot therapy, the maggots came out ahead.
In the study, which was conducted at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Long Beach, California, six wounds were treated with conventional means, six with maggot therapy and eight with conventional therapy followed by maggot therapy. After five weeks of therapy, the wounds that had been treated by conventional means still had dead tissue over 33 percent of the surface. Maggot-treated wounds, on the other hand, were completely cleaned after only four weeks.
The authors note, however, that "future studies also must address the cost-effectiveness of maggot debridement therapy and conditions in which [it] is likely to be futile."
—Diabetes Care, February 2003
Clinical adviser's note: Where do they get these maggots? A leading authority on the rediscovery of this ancient therapy is Dr. Ronald Sherman from the University of California, Irvine, who says, "Maggots have now found a niche in modern surgical procedures." He sends vials, each containing 1,000 maggots, to physicians around the United States and Canada. There are also other suppliers. Medically useful maggots are fly larvae that can be used to assist in wound-healing by eating the dead skin from around wounds while leaving the healthy skin tissues intact, a process called debridement.
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