Scientists have used maggots to treat people with diabetes who had contracted MRSA in foot ulcers.
Green bottle larvae were applied to infected wounds to eat the damaged tissue.
In trials the treatment was a success in 12 out of 13 patients, with the life-threatening condition disappearing within a month rather than the 28 weeks needed for conventional treatment.
Professor Andrew Boulton, who led the study at the University of Manchester, said: "Maggots are the world's smallest surgeons. They remove the dead tissue and bacteria, leaving the healthy tissue to heal. There is no reason this cannot be applied to many other areas of the body, except perhaps a large abdominal wound.”
Dr Iain Frame, Research Manager at Diabetes UK, said: “In light of the increasing incidence of MRSA in our hospitals and resistance to antibiotics, maggot therapy could provide a viable alternative to treating wounds and diabetic foot ulcers.
"Maggots are excellent at removing dead tissue and treating infections and in turn preventing amputations. Further research to investigate the usefulness and potential costs of maggot therapy is now needed before any decisions can be taken as to its widespread applicability.
“It has been estimated that the cost of foot ulcerations and lower limb amputations to the NHS in 2001 was £252 million. It is estimated that the lifetime risk of a person with diabetes developing a foot ulcer is up to 25 per cent.
"Nerve damage as a result of their diabetes may prevent the person from noticing the ulcer until it becomes infected. Such infection is a major contributory factor to lower limb amputation with diabetes being the leading cause of non traumatic lower limb amputation in the UK.”