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Maggots Used To Counter Mrsa Superbug


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Maggots used to counter MRSA superbug


By Nic Fleming, Science Correspondent





Last Updated: 2:04am BST 03/05/2007


Maggots have been successfully used to treat patients with the superbug MRSA, according to scientists.


In a preliminary trial, 12 of 13 patients with wounds infected with the potentially deadly bug were cured using larvae of the greenbottle fly Lucilia Sericata.


Because maggots eat dead and decaying flesh while leaving healthy tissue intact, "larval therapy" has been used by doctors since at least as early as the Napoleonic Wars, and the technique is still taught to US Army Special Forces medics.



The patients in the study, aged between 18 and 80, were cleared of the infection in an average of three weeks, compared to the 28 weeks needed for conventional treatment with anti-MRSA lotions.


Researchers used maggots to treat diabetic patients who had contracted MRSA in foot ulcers, but they said the findings were likely to apply to all patients who contracted the superbug in wounds.


Professor Andrew Boulton, of the School of Medicine at the University of Manchester, said: "Maggots are the world's smallest surgeons. In fact they are better than surgeons. They are much cheaper and work 24 hours a day.


"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, except perhaps a large abdominal wound."


Prof Boulton and colleagues applied the maggots within a dressing to the patients' wounds between two and eight times over four days. No side effects were recorded after the study, the results of which were published in the journal Diabetes Care.


Prof Boulton, whose team has been awarded a £98,000 grant from Diabetes UK to carry out a larger trial, added: "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 in a randomised controlled trial, larval treatment would offer the first non-invasive and risk-free treatment of this increasing problem and a safe and cost-effective treatment."


MRSA is in a group of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus that has developed antibiotic resistance to all penicillins.


Figures released by the Office of National Statistics in February showed the number of death certificates in England and Wales that mentioned MRSA rose 39 per cent to 1,629 between 2004 and 2005.


A Department of Health spokesman said: "There are currently no maggot products licensed in the UK. However, clinicians can prescribe maggot products on a case-by-case basis where they feel it is appropriate.


"An unlicensed prescription such as one for maggot therapy is the responsibility of the individual clinician.


"The Department of Health is currently funding a study to establish the effectiveness of maggot therapy and the findings are expected in early 2009."

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Sheep blowfly maggots have been used since the middle ages to clean ulcers. Up until WWI it was a common field dressing for necrotising wounds... there was a brief vogue for using them for diabetic ulcers in the 1980s... problem is there's no money in it. Rather like the honey dressing used after. The found that maggots followed by honey was more reliable than anti-biotics...

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