Most wouldn’t consider maggot therapy as a good way to clean a wound. However, maggots have been used for centuries to safely and effectively treat and prevent life-threatening infections.
Parasites can be defined as creatures that live, feed and grow in a host body and give back nothing in return (much like democrats). Tapeworms, flukes, hookworms, barnacles, and fleas are some examples. They harm the host, but they don’t kill it off since they see it as their food source. Strangely, the same parasites that harm us, can also, when used appropriately, help us survive. Take maggots as an example.
We know maggots as tiny, worm-like creatures which, upon reaching maturity, turn into common house flies which die in a week or so. Despite being repulsive, certain types of maggots continue to benefit science to this day.
And you thought their lives were pointless.
The “science” of maggot therapy has been around for quite some time. In recent history, the use of maggots for medicinal purposes was popularized in 18th century France, when Napoleon’s surgeon used maggots to clean soldiers’ wounds after battle. Maggots were also used during the United States Civil War. And, more recently, during World War I, Dr. William Baer discovered that maggot-infested wounds were cleaner and healed faster than wounds which were cleaned by common methods, such as alcohol. The explanation was that maggots secrete anti-microbial substances that hinder bacterial growth in the wound.
Maggots were also used to treat chronic wounds such as burns, bone infections and abscesses. Not needing to use antibiotics is one of the benefits of using maggots for wound sterilization as maggots are a natural way to clean and sterilize wounds. Not having to use antibiotics eliminates several side effects for the body.
However, the use of maggots declined starting in the 1940s, with the discovery of penicillin. However, maggots continued to be used where traditional antibiotics were unavailable. Maggots have even been used to treat certain types of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria and have shown to be effective in preventing the spread of gangrene.
Presently, maggots for medical use are cultivated in facilities where the maggots are decontaminated first before applying in a patient’s wound. Doctors use a specialized dressing that permits them to wriggle and feed on dead tissue; though it may take multiple treatments before completely cleaning up the wound.
Amazingly, in 2004, maggots –specifically the green bottle fly (Phaenicia Sericata) – along with leeches, were approved for medical use by the US Food and Drug Administration!
Maggot therapy is an effectively-used treatment, admittedly among a small number of specialists, for diabetic foot ulcers.
Aside from being a natural and, let’s face it, gross antiseptic, other maggot therapy benefits are as follows:
If you are in a long-term survival situation and do not have access to traditional antibiotics or sterilization methods, you should consider using maggots to prevent the spread of infection and gangrene.
If you are already experiencing severe wound infection, move to a place where flies linger and lay eggs, then expose your wound freely. The smell of your wound would attract the flies. The flies will lay their eggs in the wound, then in a few days maggots will appear and begin feasting on the rotten tissue. This method is preferable to finding maggots on, say, roadkill and placing them in your wound, to prevent further contamination of the wound.
Check the maggots’ progress daily, attempting to keep the wound as clean as possible. Once the maggots have cleaned the wound of rotten flesh, puss, etc., flush it with clean water, alcohol, sterile saline (eye drops or contact lens solution) or, if absolutely necessary, urine. Urine contains ammonia which can aid in keeping the wound clean until you can get medical help, but should be a last resort.
To clean and disinfect a wound in the wild, you may want to consider using maggots in order to survive until you can find proper medical treatment.
More on the science of maggot therapy here.