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March 2016

History That Will Make Your Skin Crawl—Insect Use in Dermatology

Author Affiliations
  • 1Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Bradenton Campus, OMS II, Bradenton, Florida
JAMA Dermatol. 2016;152(3):281. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.3773

When people think of bugs, it may make their skin “crawl.” It would certainly be disturbing then, to describe a treatment regimen involving insect therapy. While this seems strange in our modern world, insects have actually been widely used throughout history to treat certain medical conditions. It is no surprise that many of these insect therapies do have clinically beneficial outcomes.

For many years, maggots have been used to enhance wound healing of necrotic tissue. The larvae of maggots have been shown to eat necrotic tissue, produce antimicrobial secretions, and destroy any invading bacteria trying to colonize a healing wound. Typically used in South America and Asia, these insects are actually commonly used in remote areas where access to modern pharmaceuticals is limited or impractical.1

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