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Last Updated: Friday, 20 February, 2004, 07:34 GMT
GPs prescribe home maggot cure
Maggots
Maggots help healing by eating dead tissue
Patients can collect pots of maggots from the local chemist, now that GPs have been allowed to prescribe them to treat infected wounds at home.

The creatures may have been used as instruments of torture in the notorious "bushtucker trials" on TV's I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here, but their image could soon be given a much-needed boost thanks to their new role in modern medicine.

Maggots have been used as a way of treating infected wounds for many years, and research has shown that wounds heal quicker than when conventional medicine is used.

But from Friday, instead of going to hospital for the treatment, patients will be able to pick up a prescription for maggots, so they can be treated at home.

Pioneering research carried out at the Princess of Wales Hospital, in Bridgend, south Wales has led to the breakthrough.

District nurses will go to patients' homes and apply them to the wound sealing them into the infection with a dressing, leaving the maggots to feed on the dead tissue.

After three days, the maggots, who leave healthy tissue alone, are removed from the wound and reapplied if necessary.

As many as 20,000 patients in 1,600 centres around the UK have used the treatment so far, and experts believe that many GPs will be keen to start prescribing the new procedure to treat a range of infections.

In many cases, the treatment has prevented the need for surgery, or even amputation.

It has also proven effective against antibiotic-resistant strains of micro organisms such as the "super-bug"MRSA.

Dr Steve Thomas, director of the Biosurgical Research Unit at the Princess of Wales Hospital, said: "We recognised there is a greater need for maggot therapy in the community."

Conventional treatments take so much longer to get the same results
Dr Steve Thomas

"From Friday, the GPs will be able to write a prescription for the maggots.

"The patient then takes it to the pharmacy and we will deliver the maggots to them in special pots and the patient takes them home for the district nurse to apply.

"The maggots clean up the wound and it usually takes about one or two applications lasting three days at a time.

"When they are removed from the wound, they are disposed of as clinical waste.

"Conventional treatments take so much longer to get the same results.

"This initiative represents a major advance in the management of all types of chronic or infected wounds such as leg ulcers and diabetic ulcers which together costs the NHS an estimated 1bn per annum.

"Making this treatment available to patients in their own homes can prevent the need for a protracted hospital stay and reduce the risk of individuals developing a hospital acquired infection," he added.

When they suggested maggot therapy to me, all I could think of was that maggots live on dead sheep and I was pretty horrified.
Andrew Thomas, former patient

Andrew Thomas' foot was saved from amputation after using maggots to treat a wound infection.

"I was going to lose my leg if I didn't have the maggots," said the 43-year-old from Llangeinor near Bridgend.

"When they suggested maggot therapy to me, all I could think of was that maggots live on dead sheep and I was pretty horrified.

"But it turned that the thought of it having them was actually a lot worse than having them.

"And at the end of the day, they saved me from having my leg amputated.

"I think it is a great idea to offer people the chance to have their treatment at home," he added.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Wyre Davies
"Maggot therapy is no gimmick"



SEE ALSO:
Turning maggots into wound drugs
01 Dec 03  |  Health
Maggots heal hospital wounds
27 Feb 03  |  Northern Ireland
Maggot medicine gains popularity
06 Apr 02  |  Health
Maggots could save NHS money
17 Jul 00  |  Wales


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