Maggots can be creepy, crawly and… medicinal? In a new effort to heal wounded people in war zones, the UK Government is sending maggots to places like Syria, Yemen, and South Sudan, according to The Telegraph. Once these larvae, often those of green bottle blowflies, are connected with patients they get the right to work, keeping wounds free of contamination by feeding on dead human tissue and spreading their antibacterial saliva.
This macabre treatment may sound unusual, but it’s actually a remedy that dates back to ancient times. For instance, the Australian Aboriginal peoples used maggots to clean wounds, and during World War, I soldiers in trenches also used the critters to keep injuries free of potentially deadly infections. Now, this therapy may help people with festering wounds stay free of infection. The £200,000 ($250,000) project may even help wounded people keep their limbs, as secondary infections from injuries and operations can lead to amputations.
“People living through conflict and humanitarian crisis are still dying from wounds that could so easily be healed with the right access to care,” UK Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt, who is also an MP, told The Telegraph.
To roll out ‘project maggot’ the UK will have field hospitals raise maggots on location. Once the fly eggs are laid they will be sterilized and then incubated for a day or two. At this point, the maggots will be ready for the prime time, when
“These baby bugs can digest dead and damaged tissue from an open wound”
they can be put directly into wounds or placed in BioBags, which are then wrapped around injuries, The Telegraph reported.
Sterile maggots are very valuable in places that have limited or basic medical treatment. These baby bugs can digest dead and damaged tissue from an open wound, according to a 2012 report in the Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery. Maggots can even cleanse wounds faster than surgeons, as reported by Live Science.
However, to prevent the spread of disease these maggots can’t be used twice, so researchers have directed that the larvae be disposed of in clinical containers after each use. If some escape into the wild it shouldn’t be a problem, as maggots undergo a sterilization process when they become flies.