Stories tagged biotherapy

Aug
06
2008

Researchers at Swansea University, in the UK, are developing an antibiotic that can fight the MRSA superbug. And they're using superbugs to do it. OK, not superbugs. They're using the secretions from the maggots of the common green bottle fly.

A cage match I'm not sure I want to see: Maggots secrete a compound that can fight superbugs, including 12 strains of MRSA, E. coli, and C. difficile.
A cage match I'm not sure I want to see: Maggots secrete a compound that can fight superbugs, including 12 strains of MRSA, E. coli, and C. difficile.Courtesy National Institutes of Health

Super gross? Sure. And you won't see an ad for this antibiotic (Seraticin) on TV anytime soon. It takes some 20 maggots to make a single drop of the drug. So scientists have to fully identify it, figure out a way to synthesize it in the lab, test it on human cells, and put it through a clinical trial.

In the meantime, using live maggots on infected wounds is a time-tested way of beating infections. Dr. Alun Morgan, of ZooBiotic Ltd, told the BBC,

"Maggots are great little multitaskers. They produce enzymes that clean wounds, they make a wound more alkaline which may slow bacterial growth and finally they produce a range of antibacterial chemicals that stop the bacteria growing."

How effective are maggots? The University of Manchester has been doing research on diabetic patients with MRSA-contaminated foot ulcers. The patients treated with maggots were mostly cured within three weeks. Patients who got more conventional treatment needed 28 weeks.

So give maggots a big shout out. And then check these other stories:
"NHS 'needs to use more maggots'"
Prescription insects
Fun with beetles

May
11
2005

Biotherapy is the use of animals to diagnose or treat diseases or to assist the ill or impaired.

A leech: it does a body good?
A leech: it does a body good?Courtesy Michael Jefferies

One biotherapy that many of us are familiar with is seeing eye dogs. A less common biotherapy is the use of household pets, such as dogs or cats, in long term care facilities to improve the mood of and provide companionship for the people living there.

But other, less familiar animals have been put to medicinal purposes, too. Leeches have been used for thousands of years for various "medical" uses, and have recently been approved as a medical device by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Doctors use leeches to restore blood circulation after cosmetic or reconstructive surgery.

Maggot therapy has also staged a comeback. Doctors use maggots to treat and clean problematic wounds.

Honey bee therapy (or apitherapy), is the use of honey bee venom—which contains anti-inflammatory substances—to relieve pain in patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Apitherapy can also help treat some neurological syndromes, such as multiple sclerosis.

What do you think of biotherapy? How would you react if a doctor told you that they were going to treat you with leeches or maggots?

Want to learn more about biotherapy? The BTER Foundation is an organization dedicated to supporting patient care, education, and research in biotherapy and symbiotic medicine. The International Biotherapy Society is another organization devoted to supporting the use and understanding of living organisms in the treatment of human illnesses.