Researchers from the University of Manchester are ridding diabetic patients of the drug-resistant superbug MRSA by treating their ulcers with maggots. The treatment, documented in the journal Diabetes Care, used green-bottle fly larvae to treat diabetic patients whose foot ulcers were contaminated with MRSA. After three weeks, all the patients but one were cured, a much quicker result than the 28-week duration of the conventional treatment.
"Maggots are the world's smallest surgeons. In fact they are better than surgeons - they are much cheaper and work 24 hours a day," researcher Andrew Boulton said. They have been used since the Napoleonic Wars and in the American Civil War they found that those who survived were the ones with maggots in their wounds: they kept them clean. They remove the dead tissue and bacteria, leaving the healthy tissue to heal. Still, we were very surprised to see such a good result for MRSA. There is no reason this cannot be applied to many other areas of the body."
Boulton and his team have used maggots to treat diabetic foot ulcers for ten years. More recently they found that many of their patients were suffering from MRSA-contaminated foot ulcers, with the rate doubling in a three year period, possibly due to overuse of antibiotics and the selection of broad rather than narrow-spectrum antibacterial agents. This observation led to the current study.
The maggots used were sterile free-range larvae of the green-bottle fly Lucilia Sericata. The researchers applied the larvae between two and eight times, depending on the size of the ulcer, for four days at a time, with pressure relieving dressings to protect them. All but one of the patients was cleared of the MRSA superbug. During the treatment period, no adverse reactions were reported.
"This is very exciting. We have demonstrated for the first time the potential of larval therapy to eliminate MRSA infection of diabetic foot ulcers. If confirmed, larval treatment would offer the first non-invasive and risk-free treatment of this increasing problem," concluded Boulton.
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Source: University of Manchester