(Lansing State Journal, April 30, 1997)
Now that it's getting warmer, flies are beginning to reappear and many of us have started scrambling to find our fly swatters. But before you start swatting, consider this: flies can actually be very useful. Entomologists (scientists who study the life cycles of different insects) have shown that flies develop from maggots. Normally, these bugs are found on spoiled meat. But certain species of maggots are actually great surgeons!
All of us have gotten cuts before, and many of us cover our cuts with some type of ointment and a bandage. That ointment is called an "antibiotic" and it helps to kill the organisms that can cause an infection. Penicillin is a stronger type of antibiotic that doctors use to help us fight infections. But sometimes people have wounds that are infected so badly that even the strongest antibiotics are not able to heal them. As a last resort, doctors around the world have started using a specific type of maggot.
These maggots act like little surgeons. They clear away only the diseased and infected tissue from the wound, and this allows the healthy tissue to start healing. Sometimes we can get an infection in our bones that antibiotics can't cure. This infection is called osteomyelitis, and until doctors started using these maggots to treat this disease, the bone had to be removed. Now, by using these biosurgeons, instead of having to amputate part or all of an arm or a leg, doctors can save these limbs.