Maggot Debridement Therapy (MDT)

Despite the unavoidable revulsion the concept illicits in people, maggots have medicinal applications to helping wounds heal. Historically, the beneficial properties of maggots have been known for some time. Military surgeons often noted that soldiers with maggots in their war wounds often fared better and healed faster, with much lower mortality rates.

The idea of proactively using maggots for medicinal purposes was first pushed by William Baer at the Johns Hopkins University (interestingly, an orthopedic surgeon), but his results were only published after his death by some of his colleagues in 1932. MDT began to see common use in over 300 hospitals for the next decade, until they were supplanted by antibiotics and other medications in the 1940's. Maggot therapy was relegated to the subordinate role of a last resort when other techniques failed. In 1989, physicians at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Long Beach, California, and at the University of California, Irvine, reasoned that if maggot therapy was effective enough to treat patients who otherwise would have lost limbs, despite modern surgical and antibiotic treatment, then we should be using maggot therapy BEFORE the wounds progress that far, and not only as a last resort. Thus was seen the rebirth of maggot debridement therapy, or MDT.

The idea behind MDT is that maggots consume mostly dying, diseased tissue, leaving healthy tissue in tact. The infection of animal tissue by maggots is called myasis, which can be beneficial or harmful depending on the species of maggot and the circumstances of the infestation. Doctors usually use Phaenicia sericata (the green blow fly) larvae in clinical work. There are companies which sell medicinal maggots for MDT.

Maggots have other uses such as forensic entomology and scaring your sister.

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