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Monday, 17 July, 2000, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Maggots could save NHS money
Maggots on lab mock-up of infection
Maggots at work on a laboratory mock-up
Making maggot therapy available on prescription could save the NHS huge sums of money according to a Liberal Democrat Assembly Member.

It would also create high quality jobs, said South Wales West AM Peter Black.

He visited the Surgical Materials Testing Laboratory at the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend, which is doing pioneering work in bio surgery.

The hospital breeds sterile larvae for 'maggot therapy', a treatment which has been shown to heal infected wounds more quickly and with fewer complications than many other treatments.

Peter Black AM
Peter Black AM: 'Major medical product'
The hospital currently employs five people on maggot production.

"This is an area where Wales is leading the world," said Peter Black.

"If the Department of Health and the National assembly handle this properly and allow doctors to prescribe this treatment for use in the community by qualified nurses then there will be major savings for the NHS.

"A very effective treatment will become more widespread and Bridgend will be at the forefront of a major Welsh medical product," he added.

Maggots were widely used for medicinal purposes at the beginning of the century.

But with the advent of antibiotics in the 1940s, their use died out.

Now, the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections is causing a renewed surge in interest.

They are mostly used to treat ulcers, pressure sores and infections caused by diabetes.

The Princess of Wales Hospital is the sole breeder of sterile greenbottle fly larvae in the UK.

This is an area where Wales is leading the world

Peter Black AM
They also export the larvae to other countries in Europe.

Greenbottle larvae are used because they are known only to digest dead tissue and do not burrow down into live flesh.

Other larvae - for example, the screw worm - do eat living tissue.

The maggots are used when they are only three days old and around two millimetres long.

They are applied to the wound, sealed in with a bandage and left to feed.

They churn out enzymes that break up the dead tissue and liquefies it.

The maggots them suck it back up, cleaning up the infection as they go.

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19 Mar 99 | Health
Maggot cure for 'unbeatable' bug
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