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British doctors revive maggot treatment

"The NHS has seen the cost-effectiveness of maggots."

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Would you use maggots to treat infected wounds?

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Starting this month, British doctors will be able to prescribe maggots to patients with infected wounds, a hospital official said.

He said the state National Health Service had realized that maggots were a cheaper and more beneficial way of treating wounds than using conventional medicine.

Patients would be able to treat themselves at home and avoid the possibility of picking up a hospital infection.

Maggots have been used for centuries to rid wounds of decaying flesh, but after the discovery of antibiotics their use went into decline.

"People didn't like the thought of creepy-crawlies on their skin," said Tony Fowler, customer services manager at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend, Wales.

"But now there is a renewed interest because of the problems caused by the over-use of antibiotics, and the NHS has seen the cost-effectiveness of maggots."

Research at the Princess of Wales Hospital confirmed that placing sterile maggots on wounds could make them heal faster than conventional medicine.

The creatures devour dead, infected tissue and kill off bacteria that could block the healing process without damaging surrounding tissue, since they cannot ingest healthy flesh.

Previously, patients could obtain sterile maggots only from certain hospitals and research centers.

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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