Maggot therapy, or Maggot Debridement Therapy (also known as MDT) may appear on the surface to be an archaic and outdated method of wound care, but in fact is a current valid and effective method of debridement.
Maggot therapy works in a number of ways, firstly it is used to clean away any dead skin, the process of debridement, as maggots excrete specific digestive enzymes that dissolve dead and infected tissue. Secondly maggots help disinfect the wound as they secrete antimicrobial molecules as well as ingesting microbes and killing them within their own gut. And lastly they also promote the growth of healthy tissue.
While maggot therapy can be very effective it is not suitable for every type of wound as maggots need a moist, exudating wound with a significant oxygen supply in order to feed. They are usually prescribed to treat wounds such as pressure ulcers and neuropathic foot ulcers.
Patients and clinicians can frequently find maggots unpleasant, however their benefits can be very apparent. There have been cases where homeless individuals have presented to emergency departments with seriously neglected wounds and resulting maggot infestations, but it is because of the infestation that their wounds had never become septic, meaning that maggots have literally saved lives.