The British, Ulcers, and Maggots
You may have heard about a recent trend in foot care involving small fish that nibbled away at dead skin. But do you know about the ulcer-eating maggots? Researchers in Britain decided to compare a conventional, water-based gel application to the use of live green bottle fly maggots as ulcer treatment. They wanted to compare the cleanliness, healing abilities, and cost of the two methods. The water-based gel (or hydrogel) treatment is meant to keep the ulcer moist, thereby promoting natural healing. The idea behind the maggots is that they will speed the process of dead tissue removal, or debridement, and in turn support natural healing.
In a study of 267 UK patients with one or more leg ulcers, scientists randomly assigned the participants to be treated with hydrogel or live maggots over the course of a year. The findings were published in the British Medical Journal. During the debridement periods (cleaning away of dead tissue) of the study, participants receiving maggot treatment kept the maggots on the wound for three to four days. The hydrogel participants also had dead tissue removed from their ulcers at this time. Afterward, both groups received a standard dressing. The main difference between the maggots and the gel was that the maggots were able to debride the ulcers much more quickly than the hydrogel. The actual healing took about the same amount of time with both methods. The cost is also about the same for both. Additionally, participants in the maggot treatment group reported experiencing more pain with the treatment.
According to the National Health Service, the findings can be interpreted in a variety of ways. While the cost and healing of each method is equal to the other, the use of maggots seems to cause more pain for patients. However, because the maggots are able to debride ulcers more quickly than the hydrogel, maggots should be seriously considered if a patient's goal is to clean their ulcer. One concern about the advancement of using maggots for ulcer treatment is the willingness of patients to allow the treatment. Despite the potential benefits of the process, many people might be understandably put off by the concept. Compared to this, those little fish pedicures sound almost pleasant!