Treating Hoof Infections With Maggots

Following a consultation with a veterinarian, this farrier uses maggot therapy for tough case

Maggot debridement therapy (MDT) to heal infected wounds has been used for centuries with humans. In the 1920s, Johns Hopkins University became the first place documented in the United States to use maggot therapy in a clinical situation.

Doctors were able to heal osteomyelitis and soft tissue infections with specific laboratory-raised larvae. In the following decade, physicians routinely used MDT for wounds, but gradually improved antibiotics became more palatable and widespread for treatment. 

MDT has continued to be used for many types of infections, non-healing wounds and burns. Studies have shown that MDT has been used safely and successfully to avoid limb amputation. Some physicians recommend MDT regularly, not as a last resort. MDT can also be used for similar problems in horses and other animals.

How It Works

Various species of maggots, which are fly larvae, are used for MDT. Here are the basic steps to the therapy:

Maggots debride the wound by dissolving dead and infected tissue with their proteolytic, digestive enzymes.

Maggots can disinfect the wound (kill bacteria) by secreting antimicrobial molecules, by ingesting and killing microbes within their gut and by dissolving biofilm.

Maggots can stimulate the growth of healthy tissue. 

Many different species of maggots have been used throughout history. “Medical grade maggots” have been developed for optimal performance without complications. They are the Thoroughbreds of the maggot world! Not all species of flies are beneficial. 

These maggots are disinfected to avoid carrying any unwanted microorganisms. Actually, the fly eggs are usually applied to the…

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Steve Kraus

Steve Kraus, CJF, is Cornell University’s head of farrier services and senior lecturer for large animal surgery. He has been a farrier for more than 45 years.

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