Bacteria that infect chronic wounds can be deadly to maggot 'biosurgeons' used to treat the lesions, says a new study..
Experts at Copenhagen Wound Healing Centre, Statens Serum Institut and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, observed in their study that the maggots applied to simulated wounds heavily infected with the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa were left dead after 20 hours.
P. aeruginosa is associated with chronic wounds in which the bacteria clump together to form biofilms.
By effectively talking to each other via a well-studied communication system called quorum sensing (QS), bacteria in biofilms are known to be more successful at avoiding destruction by the host immune system as well as antibiotics.
Dr Anders Schou Andersen, who led the research, explained: "When we blocked the QS signalling pathways in the bacteria, the maggots were much better at surviving and potentially cleansing the wounds.
"Signalling between bacteria growing in biofilms is known to lead to the production of lethal toxins, without which the bacteria are more vulnerable to eradication."
Maggots have been used to disinfect wounds since ancient times, but it gained popularity in the early 1990s.
Andersen added: "MDT is generally very effective. It has been said that in a few cases MDT had failed, leaving the maggots dead in the lesion. We now think that this was probably due to the presence of P. aeruginosa in the wound.
"If we can find the specific bacterial mechanism that kills the maggots, we could target this when developing new treatments. For example, wounds infected with P. aeruginosa could be treated with an agent that interrupts bacterial signalling to ensure the success of maggot therapy and thereby wound healing."
The study has been published in the journal Microbiology.