Did doctors once use maggots to cure infections and help heal wounds?

Doctors prescribed maggots to help heal wounds during World War I.

How did this happen? The doctors caring for war casualties noticed that some patients’ wounds healed quicker and were more resistant to infection than others.

At closer look, they realized those patients had flies landing on their open sores and laying eggs. Before long, “flyblown” wound treatment became all the rage.

Flies and their larvae seem to contain some healing and antibiotic properties that medical professionals couldn’t ignore, especially not under wartime circumstances.

Still, to make the conditions a bit more safe, doctors began raising maggots and sterilizing them before placing them on open sores.

Thankfully, science soon revealed the healing substance allantoin and urea—and learned how to extract them, bypassing that menacing go-between.

Despite their laudable war effort, flies are also known to be carriers of typhoid, cholera, salmonella, dysentery, leprosy, tuberculosis, and many other life-threatening diseases.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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