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The advancement of science, part 473

MagazineDecember 2001 (Vol. 12 Issue 9)The advancement of science, part 473

The drugs don't work, as one rock group moaned - so bring back the leeches and maggots

The drugs don't work, as one rock group moaned - so bring back the leeches and maggots. These creepy-crawlies have made a successful comeback as a healing therapy.

Ten osteoarthritis patients who agreed to be treated with leeches - which sucked blood from around the arthritic knee for 80 minutes - enjoyed significant pain relief for 28 days afterwards (Ann Rheum Dis, 2001; 60: 986).

Maggots have also done their bit for patients whose wounds wouldn't heal. Of 21 volunteers, 17 reported that the maggots completely or significantly cleared the wound. Of the four others, two died, one disappeared and the fourth kept walking on his foot ulcer, so squashing the maggots. Some who refused treatment were worried that the maggots might escape and, indeed, this did happen twice. But compared to adverse drug reactions, you might feel you're still ahead of the game (Arch Phys Med Rehabil, 2001; 82: 1226-9).

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