diabetic wounds

  1. The world's tiniest doctors

    Here's one from the "try not to think about it" file: The latest natural cure for diabetic wounds that won't heal is... ready for it?

    Maggot spit.

    Gross, I know -- but it works. A new study shows that maggots can help clean and close non-healing wounds.

    And in some ways, they're even better than surgeons -- because every time a doc puts a knife to your skin to clean a wound, there's a risk of infection...including a potentially deadly one caused by drug-resistant bacteria.

    But maggots, on the other hand, have a secret ingredient in their spit: an antibacterial compound that can actually prevent those infections from even happening in the first place.

    They use that same spit to dissolve the dead and infected skin...that they then eat, making for a remarkably clean procedure. Well, that is if you're willing to overlook the fact that you've got maggots crawling through your wound and eating your flesh.

    And it's easier to overlook than you might think -- because in the new study of 100 patients blindfolded and randomly assigned to either procedure, there was no increase in "creepy crawly" sensations, and certainly no boost in pain, among those who got the maggots.

    But after a week, the maggot patients did get a boost in healing: Just 55 percent of their wounds were covered in the dead skin that can slow or stop the healing process, versus 75 percent of the wounds in those treated by surgeons.

    However, two weeks later more measurements showed that the surgically-treated wounds had caught up -- so while the maggots will get you off to a faster start, they probably won't make much of a difference beyond that.

    Still, the fact that these patients needed only $100 in medical maggots instead of the time and expense of a surgeon and they didn't face the same infection risk should be enough for the mainstream to take this method of wound cleaning seriously.

    And other studies have found an even bigger benefit -- with one showing that maggots can clean and close wounds that surgeons failed to treat, including hard- to-heal wounds that had been open for years.

    So, gross? Yes -- but don't let that scare you away.

  2. Wriggling away infection

    Letting maggots crawl across your flesh might sound like something out of "Fear Factor" -- but if the latest research is any indication, you might find it taking place at your doctor's office instead of on television.

    Maggots, as it turns out, are proving to be highly effective at treating diabetic wounds that won't heal -- the types of wounds that affect up to a third of all diabetics and often result in disability and even amputation.

    Researchers in Hawaii placed the fly larvae onto the skin of 27 diabetics who had been battling non-healing wounds for as long as five years. In 21 of the cases, the maggots did the trick, according to the research presented at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Chicago.

    One patient was suffering from gangrene in a leg so severe that doctors had recommended amputation. But after a few months of maggot therapy, he was back on his feet -- both of them.

    The secret is in the secretions: Maggot goo has the ability to boost the immune system, stimulate the growth of blood cells, and even fight infection -- including infections that are resistant to antibiotics.

    Even better, the maggots only seem to have a taste for diseased flesh -- and once it's gone, they stop eating.

    I realize a study of 27 patients is incredibly small -- too small to prove anything in most cases. But we don't exactly need much research to prove the health benefits of these critters: They were used for literally thousands of years, right up until modern times.

    They only fell out of favor when antibiotics hit the scene -- but with those meds now being overused to the brink of uselessness, maggots might start making an appearance in your own doctor's office one of these days.

    P.S. Maggots aren't the only creepy-crawlies worming their way into mainstream medical care: As I told you earlier this year, leeches are becoming essential equipment in emergency rooms, saving both life and limb in cases of severe trauma. Read more here.

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