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Leeches and Maggots

Leeches and Maggots

This is an awesome science post from Ahmed Faraaz Patel on the science behind the rather macabre practice of using leeches and maggots for therapy. 

Originally shared by Ahmed Faraaz Patel

During my stint as an intern in a poorly funded Government General Hospital, I’ve come across a few, for the loss of a better word, “fascinating” instances when all i could do was watch as my attendings used innovative methods in patient care. At that time, the most bizarre was the use of #Leeches  and #maggots  on some chronic patients. I’ve been able to find a few interesting articles on each and would love to share them.


The Leech (Hirudo medicinalis)

When you do think of Leeches, the first image that comes to your mind are slimy creatures that just won’t let go!!

But leeches have a rich historical significance dating back to the days of Hippocrates. The link here gives a brief insight

Known as #Hirudotherapy   hirudo therapy (the video in the link has relatively strong graphic content),  medicinal use of leeches is no more Taboo. They’ve regained their use in Chronic Inflammatory conditions due to the discovery of a Hyaluronidase which hydrolyses the Endoglucuronidic linkages of Hyaluronic acid.

I’m still searching for scholarly articles that highlight the use of this much underappreciated Annelid. Will add more details as I get them.

Another interesting use of leeches is found in #conservation   of an Endangered Species. Bloodsucking leeches are offering the best hope of finding one of the world’s rarest animals – The Saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis)

The Maggot

The use of maggots in Science and Medicine is even more resplendent. Maggots were used in medical treatment as far as 1929. They are now more than just the squirmy creatures found in rotting organic matter.

They’ve now found a use in the fight against an arch nemesis of medicine – #MRSA   (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) .

Researchers have found that chronic wounds like non-healing Diabetic Ulcers infected with MRSA treated with maggots healed faster

Maggots are also used in the treatment of wounds with necrotic tissue for a threefold action within a wound: debridement of necrotic tissue by means of proteolytic enzymes, stimulation of granulation tissue due to the larval excretion allantoin and reduction of wound infection

Maggot Therapy (this video has relatively strong graphic content)

Their use in treatment of burns victims with large surface area body burns is an excellent example of the above mentioned actions.

#Biofilm   ( is any physicians nightmare and Maggots might be an effective and efficient adversary. The study here describes the use of Sterile larvae—maggots of the green bottle blowfly Lucilia sericata and assessed the effect of ES(Excretions/Secretions)  from the larvae pretreated with Pseudomonas aeruginosa on the bacteria biofilms. The study concluded that the maggot ES, especially the bacteria-pretreated larva ES may provide a new insight into the treatment tool of the bacterial biofilms.

#Forensic Entymology ( is a grisly science which makes use of insects in solving crimes!

I would also like to touch upon #Xenodiagnosis which is the use of insects for the diagnosis of infectious diseases affecting human beings. The term Xenodiagnosis (XD) was introduced in 1914 for the method of detecting trypanosomes in mammal hosts by feeding laboratory bred Reduviid bugs on the animal. 

Up to now, Xenodiagnosis used in screening chagasic patients(People afflicted with Chagas disease), confirming the diagnosis of seropositive individuals, treatment, control and stock isolation, is the most specific and sensitive technique currently available for diagnosis. 

The review article here describes the use of Mosquitoes in the diagnosis of Arboviral diseases

I would love to hear everyone’s insights into these modes of Diagnosis and Treatment, which once would’ve been featured in “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not”!!

H/t Buddhini Samarasinghe  & Rajini Rao  who’ve shown how to properly post Scientific content.


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