Maggots for treating wounds

Posted at: 06/27/2013 3:41 PM
Updated at: 06/27/2013 5:52 PM
By: Benita Zahn

"I like moving around. I like working with kids, that makes you active" says James King.

But King has been sidelined. Diabetes damaged the arteries in his legs and feet, reducing blood flow. That led to a sore on his left foot that wouldn't heal. It got so bad, the only recourse was amputating of his toes in May. But he was still having trouble. As you can see, the tissue looks bad, there's very little blood flow to help with healing. So his podiatrist, Dr. Marc Ginsburg turned to an old treatment but one that's coming back into fashion. Maggot therapy.

I asked James, "When he said to you, I'm going to put bugs on your foot and that's gonna make you better, what did you think" His reply, Ooochh"

But once he got over his initial shock, Dr. Ginsburg's explanation made sense.


" All wounds have bacteria in them but there are some bacteria that anchor themselves at the base of the wound."

It's called a bio burden. As Dr. Ginsburg explains, that bacteria gets so entrenched antibiotics can't kill them.

Enter the maggots. They both eat the dead skin and release an enzyme that gets to and destroys the resistant bacteria. Together the tissue can get better blood flow and start to heal.

"I think in a couple of days we'll see a completely different wound. "

For two days the maggots will do their work. James will not feel a thing. Which he confirms when he returns to have the special bandage and bugs removed.


And as Dr. Ginsburg promised, the tissue on James foot is markedly improved.

The tissue is pink, blood flow is improved, now the wound is ready for traditional dressings to finish healing. That treatment should take about 4 more weeks.

Maggot therapy isn't for every patient. Dr. Ginsburg turned to this because James' case was very advanced despite all that medicine had to offer him.

Even though the maggots were able to speed recovery - doing in two days what could have taken 2 months, or more, insurers are loathe to pay for it.

" Because it's so rarely done it's , just comfortably declined paying for 'em." says Ginsburg. " It's cheaper though. It is much cheaper when these wounds heal more quickly, much cheaper in the long run."

As for James. He's hoping to get back on his feet. With with more than 50 grand, great and great great grand kids combined, he's got plans.

" Fish. Stand. Walk. Run, play with the kids."