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Healing Power of Maggots - Transcript


00:00            CU Maggots
                      ECU Maggots
                      CU Tube with sterile maggots
                      Wide, ext. University of Nottingham
                      CU University of Nottingham sign
                      MS – Prof. David Pritchard, looking at slides
                      Wide – laboratory
                      CU – researcher
                      CU – researcher pouring liquid into Petri dish
                      MS – researcher with equipment
                      CU –researcher
                      CU – equipment
                      CU – researcher

Guide Voice: The appeal of maggots is generally limited to the dedicated angler but it seems we should appreciate them more because, for a number of years now, they have been used by doctors in the NHS to heal some of the most intractable wounds like diabetic ulcers.

At the University of Nottingham, a research team led by Professor David Pritchard is working to understand the biological factors behind the healing power of maggots and has just received two years’ government funding to take their work further.

It was during the Napoleonic wars that battlefield surgeons first observed that soldiers, whose wounds were infested with maggots, were healing faster and with less related fever, than those whose wounds were not infested.

00:36 SOT Professor David Pritchard, University of Nottingham“Maggots are actually, in the wild, if I can use that phrase, introduced into the wounds as eggs by flies feeding on the dead and decaying tissue. And those eggs hatch into small larvae which we commonly know as maggots. And those maggots tend to feed on the dead and decaying tissue, first. And having achieved that effect of removing the dead and decaying tissue from the wound, the wound then has a better chance of healing because you’ve removed a detrimental piece of tissue from that wound.”

01:09            MS lab researcher walks to bench
                      MCU researcher opens tub of maggots
                      CU tub of maggots
                      CU tube of sterile maggots
                      As above
                      As above, but above light box

Guide Voice: In order to eat the decaying tissue, it appears that maggots secrete enzymes that help to break down, then absorb dead flesh and promote healing among the surrounding cells and it is how this healing action works that the team is studying.

Specially-bred sterile maggots of the Greenbottle variety, rather than the more common Bluebottle are reared for the NHS because the Greenbottle confines itself to dead tissue so will not go into living flesh, and it is these that are actually used in dressings, sometimes in nylon bags.

01:40 SOT Professor Pritchard“They are bred specifically under sterile conditions so that from the moment the egg is laid, that particular egg is sterile. And the maggot that hatches from that egg is consequently sterile. And if you think about it, you have to have sterile maggots; you cannot introduce extra bacteria into a wound by using non-sterile maggots, so it’s imperative that, for NHS purposes, that those maggots are specially-bred.”

02:07            Wide – researchers in lab
                      CU tube of sterile maggots
                      MS – researcher looking at gel
                      CU – gel in dish
                      MCU – gel on light box
                      ECU – gel on light box
                      Video – Fibroblasts PLUS maggot secretions
                      Video – Fibroblasts NO maggot secretions
                      Video – both from above, side by side for comparison
                      MS – researcher using pipette with gel
                      MS – as above
                      CU – pipette and gel
                      MS – researcher using pipette with gel
                      ECU – pipette and gel

Guide Voice: The team receive their maggots from the same source as the NHS and by the time they reach the University laboratory, they have already secreted fluid into the container. By applying this fluid to specially-treated gels, the impact of the enzymes is evident – it eats through the surface, leaving clear areas amid the blue-dyed plate.

By contrasting the action of the fluid secreted by the maggots on human fibroblasts, a key cell in the healing process, with fibroblasts without enzymes, they discovered that the healing process was considerably accelerated.

Using time-lapse photography the impact of the secreted enzymes on the healing process is dramatically illustrated with the fibroblast cells growing together much more quickly than those without the maggot secretions. Further studies have enabled them to identify two enzymes in particular which accelerate healing and they are now looking at ways to either use them in active dressings or create a synthetic version of the enzymes which could be used clinically in wound dressings in the future.

03:06 SOT  Professor Pritchard“We have a defined plan, we’ve been funded to actually isolate these enzymes, these wound healing enzymes, in sufficient quantities to incorporate into prototype dressings, to be trialled in patients with wounds as a replacement to live maggot therapy.”

03:22            CU tube of sterile maggots

Guide Voice: The ultimate aim is to harness the healing power of the maggots and make the maggots themselves redundant!

03:31            Ends

This material is available for use without restriction for up to 28 days following the feed date, Thursday 27 July 2006. For use beyond this period, please contact Research-TV on +44 (0) 207 004 7130 or email

Page contact: Shuehyen Wong Last revised: Thu 27 Jul 2006
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