Clinical grade maggots can turn a stagnant ulcer into a clean and healthy healing wound within a matter of days but stigma is preventing people benefiting from their therapeutic use.
Professor Yamni Nigam lectures in anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology here at the School of Health and Social Care, with specialist teaching subjects including digestion, blood, immunology, microbiology, parasitology and wound infection and healing.
Alongside teaching, she has also dedicated years of research into medicinal maggots as lead of the Swansea Maggot Research Group. The group focuses on the medicinal maggot, Lucilia sericata, and the molecules involved in larval therapy. Together, they have published widely on the antimicrobial activity of larval secretions, and on the wound healing properties of maggots.
But whilst clinically revered as something of a medical marvel, maggots are (unsurprisingly!) not so highly regarded by the public.
“In general, we know there is a cultural dislike for creepy crawlies - things like maggots and spiders and all sorts of insects - so the reluctance really lies with patients if they feel they are too disgusted or grossed out by maggots. However, these are medicinal maggots. They are clinical grade. They are clean. They have been reared under sterile conditions and they’re completely clinically packaged in a small bag that they can’t get out of, they can’t escape from. That’s the thing a lot of patients don’t realise.”
Independent clinical trials involving hundreds of patients who were given maggot therapy shows that maggots work really well and are actually more effective than other control treatments in removing dead and infected wound debris. So, to break down the stigma, Professor Nigam is currently leading a project investigating public understanding and perception of the clinical use of maggots on wounds. Engaging with schools, communities and organisations, her Love a Maggot campaign is raising awareness of the use of live maggots as clinical treatment to help clear and heal chronic wounds.
“We know that the application of maggots can result in a huge turn around. The treatment is given to patients who have chronic wounds, especially patients whose chronic wounds are not healing, and thanks to the maggots, dead tissue can be completely eliminated from the wound within about four days.”
People at risk of developing non-healing wounds include those who suffer from diabetes or have vascular problems so this kind of awareness raising could be life-changing and limb-saving.
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