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Maggots help remove dead tissue safely

HOME-GROWN: Maggots are cultivated by life sciences company Origin Scientia within 18 to 24 hours of an order being placed. PHOTO: ST

Maggot therapy is usually a last resort for people who have difficulty healing their wounds.

If left untreated, an infected open lesion could result in an amputation to stop the infection from spreading, podiatrists told The New Paper.

The role of these microsurgeons, which are barely 2mm long, is to eat up all the dead tissue on a wound to prepare a nice clean wound bed, explained Mr John Moody.

This is necessary for a wound to heal, the podiatrist at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) added.

The maggots are left on the wound for two to three days, before they are flushed out with saline and discarded.

While there are other ways of removing a wound's dead tissues, like going under the knife, using maggots takes away any surgical risk, Ms Lynn Toh pointed out.

The podiatrist at the National University Hospital (NUH) Rehabilitation Centre explained: "The maggots are very selective and will feed only on dead tissue and not affect the healthy tissue, compared to surgery, which may be too aggressive as the surgeons may remove some of the healthy tissue as well."

This form of therapy is usually considered if the patient is considered too high risk for surgery, she added.

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Currently, life sciences company Origin Scientia is the only maggots supplier here.

They are cultured from a fly species similar to the green bottle fly, within 18 to 24 hours of each order.

TTSH, which is part of the National Healthcare Group, was the first to offer this therapy in 2008. Now, Mr Moody said he sees up to four patients a month needing maggot therapy.

NUH, which introduced it in early 2010 as part of a multi-disciplinary limb salvage programme under the vascular surgery department, sees about 40 to 50 patients going for the treatment every month, said Ms Toh.

"Most of the patients are intrigued rather than fearful when we offered maggot therapy as a form of treatment.

"They are often keen to try them especially if they have had a wound for a long time and have tried various treatments but with little effect in healing them," she said.