Flies and wounds make not a good pair—unless the flies come in live, decontaminated larvae in an age-old medical procedure called maggot therapy (myiasis). Repulsive as it may sound, maggots have been curing infected wounds from as far back as in the Old Testament as told in the Book of Job. In the American Civil War, doctors used maggot therapy to debride and disinfect injured soldiers’ wounds. Its simple mechanics and ability to promote speedy healing, makes the benefits of maggots handy in or out of battle.
So what is it about maggots that bring even the ruthless cynic that is modern medicine to heel? For one, these bugs can dissolve up to 25 micrograms of necrotic tissue in under 24 hours, including infectious bacteria that burrows within. They are also self-limiting organisms that attack only dead flesh and leave out the healthy, allaying doctors’ fears of excessive tissue damage. While the practice is almost as old as time, maggot therapy was only approved by the FDA in 2004 as a single-use medical device that must be stored under sterile conditions and disposed of as biohazardous waste.