maggots and leeches break in as curative therapies
Do you suffer from cataracts? Mix the gallbladder of a hare with honey and apply it to the eye with a feather. Use this treatment for three nights in a row and et voilà. As strange as it may seem now, it turns out that this was one of the medical prescriptions that were applied in the Middle Ages. many of them —now— we know they were nonsense, but maybe not so much at others. What’s more, some have returned to our days and are used in hospitals around the worldincluding the Spanish.
The clearest example is larval therapy. Used as a remedy to heal wounds since unsuspected times, it became especially popular in war contexts. He was the nicknamed father of war surgery, the French Ambroise Pare, who during the famous battle of San Quentin (1557) realized the healing power that fly larvae had on soldiers’ injuries. However, the person in charge of describing precisely how this method worked was nothing more and nothing less than Napoleon Bonaparte’s surgeon general, Baron Dominique Larrey.
Its use lasted until the First World War And, beware, that in 2022, in the middle of the dispute between Russia and Ukraine, the video of a Russian soldier using this method went viral. The strangeness of the scene caused the recording to go around the world, but the truth is that, for a few years, it has also been applied in hospitals.
[El misterio de la cicatrización: las heridas sanan mejor de día]
“Larval therapy is effective in patients with chemical injurieswho have suffered a amputation or in big burns“, explains to EL ESPAÑOL Andreu Jaume Rigo, a nurse specializing in deterioration of skin integrity, ulcers and wounds and scientific popularizer through the web Cures and Wounds.
no direct contact
According to the expert, what this method, also known as worm therapy or Biosurgery, does is use common fly larvae (Lucilla Sericata), for remove necrotic tissue from a wound. Likewise, he comments that it can be used to keep the wound clean after debridement (removal of necrotic tissue), especially if it is considered that the lesion shows a propensity to create devitalized tissue. Thus, the area can be correctly restored and infections avoided. And, peace of mind for the most apprehensive: as detailed by Rigo, the form of application is through some porous bags containing the larvae.
The clinical guidelines of the Spanish Association of Vascular and Wound Nursing (AEEVH) recognize this practice as an effective method for the treatment of certain injuries. However, as Daphne Vázquez, an emergency nurse specializing in wounds and disseminator on the same website, clarifies, this therapy can only be requested as foreign medication. “The request must come from a hospital pharmacyaccompanied by a doctor’s report that justifies said request,” he clarifies.
For this reason, in our country there are few cases in which this therapy has been used. On the other hand, other nations, such as the United Kingdom, live a whole boom. According to a report published by its health system, almost 15,000 patients they have already benefited from this remedy since 2007. The figures could be higher if it were not for the reluctance of some professionals to administer this treatment. And not because of its effectiveness, but because find the idea “disgusting”as demonstrated by a study published in the journal Journal of Wound Care.
[Ni agua oxigenada ni alcohol: llevas toda la vida curándote mal las heridas]
Equally unpleasant can be the treatment with leeches, the other therapy from the Middle Ages that seems to have returned to our days. Lto The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized its sale as a “medical device” in 2004, in order to drain blood in certain cases. The United Kingdom also includes hirudotherapy —the name by which this type of treatment is recognized— as hospital dispensing.
not everything goes
However, with leeches we have the other side of the coin in the return of these treatments. This is not the case with larval therapy, which has been shown to have scientific support behind it. Here, in Spain, we are not going to have any expert with scientific endorsement to talk about the subject, because there is none. TOYeahin 2019, EL ESPAÑOL uncovered the business of ‘the bloodsucker doctor’, a woman who runs the only clinic in Spain that offers hirudotherapy. His case is far from the FDA recommendations, since he uses these animals for the treatment of any kind of pain and inflammatory and circulatory problems.
Thus, the Association to Protect the Patient from Pseudoscientific Therapies (APETP) launched a complaint about the Collegiate Medical Organization and the College of Physicians of Madrid.
Probably, in the case of this doctor, her ancestry played a role. Russian era and, in this country, the leeches are not that they have returned, it is that they never left. Despite the attempts that the nation has made to improve the health system, a large part of its population, especially those in rural areas, cannot afford the economic burden that a anticoagulant medication. That’s why many continue to buy leeches as a preventative treatment for stroke and heart disease.
[El desinfectante que hemos utilizado todos en España y que se vincula a una enfermedad de la piel]
Because, what is certain is that the leech has shown benefits for circulation, which has led pharmaceutical giants to develop medicines based on its poison. Thus, in Spain, even if one is not directly applying this bloodsucking bugyes you can be benefiting from it.
You can do it through lepirudin, an active principle approved by Health and that works as an antithrombotic anticoagulant. “It represents a new structural class within this group of drugs, since it derives from hirudin (natural anticoagulant from the leech – medicinal Hirudo),” says the agency. To this day, it is the active principle of refludinan anticoagulant for adult patients with heparin-associated thrombocytopenia.
Natural compounds are seen as a new alternative to the drugs that have been used up to now, especially in the context of the drama of the antibiotic resistanceproblem that, in 2019, caused 1.27 million deaths, more than AIDS or malaria. Stopping the indiscriminate use of these drugs has become a crucial task for science and medicine, since it is estimated that, by the year 2050, this could be the cause of ten million deaths.
Thus, as Rigo and Vázquez comment, this is precisely one of the reasons that explains the attempts to introduce larval therapy as a health remedy. It seems that the past returns to ensure the future.