MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: In 'maggot therapy' why do maggots only eat decayed-not healthy flesh?

Date: Tue Nov 10 21:47:02 1998
Posted By: Daniel Fletcher, Anthropologist, Pre-Med.
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 910639943.Me

James, I loved getting this question, it is my all time favorite ! I thank you for asking it. Anyway, You made an assumption in your question that is not true. "Maggots will only eat decaying flesh and not healthy tissue. " Maggots eat flesh, bad flesh, good flesh, red flesh, blue flesh. They do not know when to stop eating, the buffet never closes as far as they are concerned. In order to stop the process of tissue removal, the maggots have to be washed out with a sterile fluid. The British Army has, in its manual for special forces, espoused the method of flushing the wound with a fresh stream of urine when clean, red blood and flesh appear, to get the maggots out. I suspect hospitals use a saline solution or something like that. Generally,maggots take longer to turn into flies than is neccessary for the wound to be cleaned, and if they did, they'd leave behind shells which would infect the wound further, so No, they don't just turn into flies and fly away. In summary, flies are attracted by the smell of rotting flesh, which is why they lay their eggs there. However, if the rotting flesh is on a still- living being, the maggots will still gestate and begin eating, being oblivious to the fact that their dinner is still alive. Great question, Thanks. -Danny Fletcher

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