The study focuses on veterans with chronic diabetic foot ulcers. Carefully sterilized maggots, contained in fine mesh bags, will be placed on the wounds and left to do their thing. The theory is that, as the maggots are allowed to chow down on the dying flesh around the wound, clearing it away to promote new tissue growth while also eating up the harmful bacteria that caused problems in the first place. Not only that, but these maggots are also believed to secrete germ-killing molecules as they eat!
Still sound gross? Drs Linda Cowan and Micah Flores, the researchers heading the study, totally get it. Cowan prefers to refer to her little helpers by their scientific name, ‘larvae,’ as Flores admits that the term maggot, “can be a scary word.” (Recruitment flyers make sure to emphasize that they use ‘medicinal’ maggots only.)
But as scary as maggots may seem, diabetic ulcers are even scarier. They can be hard to treat, with no one therapy providing a cure-all for every patient. Left alone to progress, ulcers can frequently lead to foot and leg amputations for diabetic patients—a lot scarier an idea than the notion of having some bagged-up bugs chomp on your feet.
So, would I recommend this treatment to my patients? If it is proven to work, YES! When your foot develops an ulcer, it’s a medical emergency. I would use any and every tool available to me to get your foot healed—FAST.
But if the idea of maggots is overwhelmingly sickening to you, do both of us a favor. If you’re living with diabetes, conduct daily home foot exams and maintain regular visits with your Houston podiatrist. That’s the best way to keep yourself from getting into a must-have-maggots situation.