If you’re looking for new ideas for medical therapies, it’s generally a bad idea to seek inspiration in the therapeutic practices of eighteenth century medicine. Bleeding was prescribed for almost any ailment (including bleeding-induced weakness), and compounds laced with mercury were commonly used in diuretics and antisyphilitics. And how about the practice of placing maggots in festering wounds? Surprisingly, this last techique is seeing a revival.
In the blog Bitesize Bio I came across a press release (PDF) from Monarch Labs on their Larval Debridement Therapy, also known as maggot therapy. To their credit, Monarch doesn’t shrink from using the word “maggot”. No hiding behind fancy latinate euphemisms for them… they spell it right out for you on their home page.
Medical Maggots™ are used to clean (“debride”) and manage wounds in a procedure known as “maggot therapy.” Sometimes wound debridement using maggots is also called “maggot debridement therapy,” “MDT,” “larva therapy,” “larval therapy,” “larva debridement therapy,” or “biodebridement.”
For people prone to slow-healing or non-healing wounds and ulcers, maggots can be a godsend. The real problem is convincing doctors to use them. If you believe the press release, “about 600,000 diabetics get foot ulcers every year nationwide, and traditional medical practices can cost up to $8,000 to treat such wounds,” whereas “… a single course of maggot therapy costs about $100.” What’s more, antibiotics can lose efficacy over time. Green bottle fly larvae, on the other hand, are in no danger of losing their appetite for gleaming pearls of necrotic flesh. Om nom nom.
Welcome to the new frontier of medical science: how’s about a nice whipworm smoothie to go with your maggoty salve? It’s only a matter of time before we rediscover the charms of iatrogenic bloodletting.
For the record, I advise that you not do a Google image search for the words “larval debridement.”