Maggots healed the wounds of diabetic patients where traditional medicine had failed, according to a report that suggests the ancient therapy may offer an alternative for clearing severe ulcers.

Medical-grade versions of the fly larvae, placed on the sores of 27 diabetic patients, helped close the wounds in 21 cases, said Lawrence Eron, associate professor at the University of Hawaii’s John A Burns School of Medicine, in Honolulu, and an author of the report. Some of the wounds had been open for as long as five years, he said.

Maggot therapy, a medical technique since Biblical times, declined after antibiotics came into use in the 1940s. The treatment is now undergoing a resurgence as a potential cheap alternative for patients with wounds infected with drug- resistant bacteria. The findings were presented today at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, in Chicago.

“There’s this yuck factor that permeates not only patients’ views of using maggots, but especially the medical profession — and I was no exception to that,” Eron said in a telephone interview. “But when I saw the results of what these maggots do, and what they accomplished, I became very enthusiastic.”

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