SUGAR LAND, Texas - Sometimes ancient remedies are the best, even if they make you a little squeamish.
Maggots are being used again but in a new way: to save lives, limbs and money.
Some doctors think the larvae could revolutionize wound care, which costs $10 to 15 billion a year in the U.S. It’s a problem that will grow, with our growing diabetes population.
On the Ca-Hil farm out in the small town of Wild Peach in Brazoria County, it is another day. Owner Randy Harang is prepping the fields to bale hay, but for the 59-year-old, it is not just business as usual.
“I had an infection that popped up on my foot overnight.” said Harang.
In July, he learned two things: he was diabetic and doctors said, “We're gonna have to amputate your toe and part of your foot.”
The battle now was to save the rest of the rancher and farmer's foot.
At Houston Methodist Sugar Land, Dr. Nicholas Desai decided to try an ancient therapy, in a new package: fly larvae or maggots.
Dr. Desai explained, “It’s bio debridement or biosurgery. They use their mandibles to scour the wound and release these enzymes.”
Maggots eat dying or necrotic tissues exposing healthy tissue.
Biomonde grows the flies, harvests their eggs, sterilizes everything then packages the larvae in a nylon net where they can work through the material, but stay contained inside the netting.
The "bio bags" were applied like bandages onto Harang’s foot. He became the first patient in Fort Bend County to try the treatment.
Four days later, Harang was able to have a skin graft. With conventional therapy, Dr. Desai said it would have taken up to 72 days to be able to do a skin graft.
The financial savings are stunning.
Desai compared the Biobag to conventional treatment for Harang, saying “One is $400 in just medication management alone, (traditional therapy) would have been somewhere upwards of $30,000.”
Can he say the maggot therapy helped save Harang’s foot? Desai’s one-word answer was “Absolutely.”
Not quite three months after surgery, Harang’s foot has healed over completely from where his 5th toe was amputated and skin graft was done.
He should be able to wear sneakers shortly.
Standing in his barn, grooming cattle, Harang is grateful, saying “I can get back out here, mess with the calves, run my tractor.”