Just What the Dr. Ordered: Maggots and Vampire Bats

When you think of creepy, crawly insects and other critters, what comes to mind? We get the chills and a little tense too, not to mention itchy.

But, the truth is, insects and other critters like maggots, bats, and alligators (just to name a few) could save your life.


Biotherapy: using nature's natural healing powers in modern medicine.

No, seriously.

Consider Pam Mitchell, a diabetic since age 10. A few years ago she developed a festering open wound on the heel of her foot; she thought she’d never wear comfortable shoes again, or furthermore, even walk.

Conventional medicine failed her and amputation seemed to be the only answer.

That is until Pam asked for an age old therapy -- Maggots. Ick!

"They eat just the dead infected tissue. They don't touch the good tissue like surgery. They excrete enzymes to promote healing and kill all the bacteria at the same time," said Mitchell

Dermatologist Doctor Eliot Mostow treated Pam. He also uses maggots on other patients, but usually as a last resort.

"Especially if it's in hard to reach spots, especially if you might otherwise have to go to the operating room. You put them in there; they will dig away to right where they need to go. 48 hours later you take them off and the wound is cleaner," Mostow explains.

Here’s another story about an 85-year-old man, Frank Dolce. He’s not one to slow down. Well, he wasn’t until his knee started bothering him.

His doctor injected him with a thick fluid made from rooster combs. This treatment helps the knee's synovial fluid lubricate the joint.

"It acts like a shock absorber, you know, it cushions the bone on bone and eventually you won't have the sharp pain that you had before," said Dolce.

This injection isn’t a cure, but it helped frank avoid surgery and get back to the gym.

Do you know Cheryl McDowell? She’s the first patient in Ohio to use a pain-relieving drug made from the toxic venom of a cone snail. Ah!

This is how it works: a hockey puck size pump was implanted inside Cheryl's body, the tube injects the drug, called Prialt, into her spine, then the medicine blocks the pain signals to her brain.

Again, "It's not a cure for the disease, but it's a way of maintaining a better life for as long as I have," said McDowell.

No one likes those creepy black bats that only come out at night. Yet, Vampire bats may be just what stroke patients need. A drug has been created and is being tested on stroke patients already.

Doctor Anthony Furlan is researching the effects of an enzyme found in Vampire bat saliva.

"The agent itself causes the body's natural anti-clotting system to be enhanced and activated and that can actually dissolve clots and open up arteries," Dr. Furlan explains.

Alligator blood. Yucky! Actually, the thought of blood in general gives me the hibby-jibbies. Maybe I need to think more positively about the effects: researchers found that proteins in alligator blood have powerful germ killing properties. The proteins are able to kill several types of bacteria including MRSA.

So what do you think now? Would you be willing to use a Biotherapy?

Pam Mitchell (the woman who was injected with maggots) thinks most of us would.

"If it came down to losing your leg, your limb, you'd be willing to try anything," said Mitchell.

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