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NHS Uses Thousands Of Bags Of Live Maggots To Clean Wounds

by : Emily Brown on : 11 Oct 2021 08:21
NHS Uses Thousands Of Bags Of Live Maggots To Clean WoundsAlamy

You might have heard stories about people being treated with maggots back in the ‘olden days’, but I think most of us assumed we’d moved on from that thanks to the incredible progress we’ve made in the world of medicine. 

As it turns out, however, the creepy-crawlies are still being used by the NHS to clean wounds in an increasing number of cases.

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The treatment involves applying sterilised fly larvae to wounds, after which they work to eat away at dead tissue. It was common practice in the first half of the 20th century after being popularised by American scientist William Baer, but, probably much to many patients’ delight, started to fall out of use with the rise of antibiotics in the 1940s.

NHS sign (Alamy)Alamy

A report in The Daily Telegraph reveals medics both in the UK and overseas are turning back to the old method amid the threat of antibiotic resistance, which is causing threats to the wellbeing of patients. Superbugs are thought to kill around 700,000 people a year, though that figure is predicted to reach 10 million by 2050.

One supplier of the tissue-eating bugs is BioMonde, a multinational wound care company based in Bridgend, South Wales.

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The company rears maggots from Greenbottle Blowflies before selling them for use in the medical field, sending around 25,000 ‘biobags’ containing between 50 and 400 live maggots across Europe each year, including 9,000 to the NHS.

The website for BioMonde says ‘Larval Therapy’, which is also known as ‘Maggot Therapy’ or ‘Biosurgery’, uses larvae to remove ‘necrotic, sloughy and/or infected tissue’, as well as maintaining a clean wound after debridement. The bags cost between £150 and £300 each.

Maggots (Alamy)Alamy

‘The technique, which has been used for centuries, has been reintroduced into modern medicine by doctors and wound care specialists who have found that larvae are able to cleanse wounds much more rapidly than conventional dressings,’ the site says.

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Yamni Nigam, a professor of healthcare science at Swansea University, told The Telegraph maggots are ‘brilliant little creatures’, despite often being viewed as an ‘agent of decay’.

Nigam continued, ‘[They] work incredibly well in wounds with resistant infections. We’re on the cusp of this global catastrophe of antimicrobial resistance and larval therapy is sometimes considered a backup plan or last resort to tackle resistance – but actually it is part of the solution.’

Rebecca Llewellyn, a clinical support assistant at BioMonde, said the use of maggots is ‘definitely useful in a modern setting’ and pointed out it is a ‘tried and trusted treatment’.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University and went on to contribute to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming Senior Journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news, trending stories and longer form features.

Topics: Health, Healthcare, medicine, NHS, Now

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The Daily Telegraph
  1. The Daily Telegraph

    Medicinal maggots make comeback amid mounting superbug threat