Maggot therapy succeeded in healing the wounds of diabetic patients where modern medicine could not. This study showed the possible application of maggots as a remedy for severe ulcers, said a Bloomberg report.

According to Lawrence Eron, Associate Professor at the University of the Hawaii's John A. Burns School of Medicine in Honolulu and author of the report, medical-grade fly larvae placed on the sores of diabetic patients helped close the wounds of 21 of the 27 patients. He added that some of the wounds have been open for five years.

Ancient Therapy in Modern Medicine

The use of maggots as a medical technique has been present since Biblical times. Its use declined with the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s. The findings of the study presented during the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy held on September 17-20, 2011 in Chicago, may revive the role of maggots in medical history as a healing agent.

"There's this yuck factor that permeates not only patients' views of using maggots, but especially the medical profession -- and I was no exception to that," Eron said in a telephone interview. "But when I saw the results of what these maggots do, and what they accomplished, I became very enthusiastic."

Eron admits that it is still a mystery how maggots manage to achieve these positive results.

"There are substances secreted in their excretions that have very interesting properties," he said, including an anti- bacterial effect and the ability to stimulate patients' immune systems, as well as angiogenesis, or the growth of new blood cells.

"Taking advantage of them without knowing too much about how they work, we used this on our toughest patients," Eron said.

Deadly Disease

Diabetes kills one person in every seven seconds, and affects 366 million people around the world, said the International Diabetes Federation. It damages nerve endings and restricts blood flow, causing infected wounds. Treatment for Diabetes can range from antibiotics to amputation of infected body parts.

One success story in the study involved a patient with gangrene so serious that doctors wanted to amputate his leg. But the patient chose treatment with maggots. After several months, the patient's gangrene diminished and his leg was saved.

Medical-grade Fly Larvae

Medical-grade maggots are described as fly larvae grown in the lab, are germ-free and eat only dead tissue. Eron mentioned that they may have been used in healing infected wounds for thousands of years. He also referred to a Bible passage referring to Job's broken skin being "clothed with worms."

Historical evidence of maggot therapy date back to 1941 in the "Hortus Sanitatus" medical texts, published in Germany. A research conducted by orthopedic surgery professor at John Hopkin's University School of Medicine, William Baer, also showed the success of maggot therapy during World War I. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of maggots as a medical device in 2004, said the Bloomberg report.

Eron said that it would take at least a decade for scientists to determine the specific properties of larvae secretions, and the kind of medicines that can be created from them. He added that maggot therapy could provide remedies that for germ-caused ailments that have become resistant to antibiotics.

He made a point of warning people not to try treatment with ordinary maggots.

"That may have been how they did things in Biblical times, or by the Mayan civilization," he said, "but I would not do that."