Skip to main content


Scientific Name(s): Lucilia cuprina, Lucilia sericata, Phaenicia sericata
Common Name(s): Botfly maggot, Fly larva, Grub, Living antiseptic, Maggot, Surgical maggot, Viable antiseptic

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Nov 8, 2021.

Clinical Overview


Maggot debridement therapy (MDT) is used in persistent ulcers, especially pressure ulcers and diabetic-related ulcers, although other wound applications have been reported. Cost effectiveness of the therapy, as well as effectiveness in reducing time to heal, has not been established.


Standards for the growth and harvesting of P. sericata larvae have been published, and have been accepted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the approval of maggots in the medical management of wounds. Estimates of the quantity of maggots required for debridement include the use of 10 maggots per cm2 of wound and 100 maggots per 50 g necrotic tissue over 4 days.


Contraindications may include life- or limb-threatening conditions, lack of wound hemostasis, deep-tracking wounds, psychological issues, and hypersensitivity. With wounds, contraindications may only exist until underlying pathology is addressed (ie, maggots have been successful in osteomyelitis and limb-threatening conditions).


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

When used therapeutically, maggots do not appear harmful to living tissues, but can produce pain and pruritus, as well as anxiety. Severe bleeding has resulted from maggot therapy.


Information regarding the toxicology of maggot exudate is limited.


Maggots are the larvae of various flies. The species P. sericata (green blow fly) has been therapeutically used with success for many decades, but other species such as Lucilia caesar, Phormia regina, and Musca domestica have also been used.Claxton 2003, Li 2009 Standards for the growth and harvesting of P. sericata larvae have been published and have been accepted by the FDA for approval in the medical management of wounds. The second instar (stage) larvae are used to feed on tissue material before they develop into nonfeeding pupae after 5 to 7 days. These are removed before they enter the 1- to 3-week–long pupation stage leading to adult flies.Claxton 2003, FDA 2010, Sherman 2002, Sherman 1996


The effects of maggots on wounds have been known since the 1500s when it was observed that maggots cleaned untreated wounds, removing necrotic tissue without apparent harm to living tissue. Later, some military surgeons noticed that maggot-infested wounds responded better than noninfested wounds. The first scientific paper on the surgical use of maggots appeared in 1931, and interest in the technique continued throughout the 1930s and early 1940s. MDT was routinely performed in over 300 hospitals during this time. The first civilian use, based on observations during World War I, was in treating 4 children with osteomyelitis who did not respond to other available treatments. Subsequent occurrence of tetanus in other cases led to the development of bacteriologically sterile maggots. Early uses for maggot therapy included the treatment of abscesses, burns, cellulitis, gangrene, and ulcers. The use of maggots declined rapidly in the mid-1940s with the development of antibiotic drugs, but more recent cost-effectiveness evaluations and acceptability studies suggest a resurgence in interest.Claxton 2003, McKeever 2008, Mumcuoglu 1999, Sherman 2002

Uses and Pharmacology

Forensic entomology

Analyses of maggots found in decomposing bodies can reveal information about the time of death and the presence of specific drugs, as well as providing clues about crime location and circumstances.(Beyer 1980)

Wound debridement

The mechanisms by which maggots debride wounds and thereby promote healing have not been proven conclusively. However, a variety of mechanisms have been suggested, and studies are being undertaken to elucidate specific mechanisms. The exudate produced in response to the maggots physically washes bacteria out of the wound. The crawling larvae mechanically stimulate viable tissues to rapidly produce granulation tissue. They also enzymatically liquefy necrotic tissue. Bacteria are destroyed within the alimentary tracts of the larvae, which also use necrotic tissue as food. Maggots may produce antibacterial agents that are released in their secretions. They also increase the alkalinity of the wound, promoting healthy granulation. Substances proposed as beneficial secretions of maggots include allantoin, ammonium ions, and calcium carbonate.(Claxton 2003, Horobin 2005, Mumcuoglu 1999) Upregulation of endothelial cell activity has also been reported.(Sun 2016)

Antibacterial action of the secretions of maggots has been determined and may include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomomas aeruginosa.(Bexfield 2004, Cazander 2009, Steenvoorde 2004, van der Plas 2008)

Clinical data

Numerous case reports and anecdotal evidence exist. A few prospective studies have been published among a limited pool of researchers, including those pursuing FDA approval of medical maggots, and even fewer randomized clinical trials have been undertaken.

In a prospective, but not randomized, study of MDT versus conventional therapy for pressure ulcers, positive findings were attributed to MDT. Reductions in wound size, time for debridement, and amount of necrotic tissue, as well as increases in granulation outcomes all reached statistically significant differences in the 61 wounds (50 patients) evaluated.(Sherman 2002) Other measures such as decreased odor from necrotic tissue and decreased wound pain were demonstrated for MDT in a similar prospective study evaluating pressure ulcers and chronic leg ulcers secondary to diabetes.(Mumcuoglu 1999) Additionally, a reduction in the need for dressing changes has been reported. (Mudge)

A randomized clinical trial evaluated the cost-effectiveness of MDT in leg ulcers.(Soares 2009) Therapy with maggots was estimated to incur costs similar to those of the standard hydrogel treatment. Additionally, only slightly faster healing and greater general acceptance was found for MDT, with statistical significance not being attained.(Soares 2009) A similar randomized trial (the VenUS II Trial) found time-to-healing did not differ between MDT and hydrogel; however, time-to-debridement was significantly faster for larval therapy versus hydrogel. Patient selection for inclusion in the trial may have influenced the study outcomes.(Dumville 2009) Similar findings (increased debridement but similar healing rates) have been reported in other clinical trials.(Davies 2015, Opletalova 2012)

Granulation and angiogenesis in diabetic foot wounds has been reporetd in a clinical study evaluating maggot debridement therapy.(Sun 2016) Maggot therapy demonstrated significant reductions compared to controls in both S. aureus (P=0.047) and P. aeruginosa (P=0.048) in foot ulcers of diabetics in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial (N=50).(Malekian 2019)

Conflicting data exist for the relative efficacy of contained (in a bag or pouch) versus free-range larvae.(Blake 2007, Steenvoorde 2005)

Other case reports include reviews of the treatment of wounds secondary to arthroscopy, MDT in palliative and outpatient settings, and in patients with hemophilia or diabetes.(Frykberg 2006, Rojo 2004, Sherman 2001, Steenvoorde 2007, Wollina 2005)

Some patients with severe tissue destruction may also receive antibiotics along with MDT. A report evaluates this combination. Larvae survival was decreased when very high doses of gentamicin and cefazolin were administered. Antibiotics showing no effect on survival rate included ampicillin, ceftizoxime, clindamycin, mezlocillin, and vancomycin.(Sherman 1995)

Other uses

L. cuprina maggot excretion/secretions have demonstrated antiviral and virucidal activity against Rift Valley Fever and Coxsackie B4 viruses in vitro with a 5% and 26% reduction in viruses, respectively. Virucidal activity was also observed against the Coxsackie B4 virus after a 24-hour incubation time.(Abdel-Samad 2019)

The saliva and hemolymph from L. sericata maggots have been shown to both have leishmanicidal activity against Leishmania tropica in vitro.(Rahimi 2021)


Estimates of the quantity of maggots required for the use of debridement includeBlake 2007, Claxton 2003, Sherman 2002 the use of 10 maggots per cm2 of woundClaxton 2003 and 100 maggots per 50 g necrotic tissue over 4 days.Blake 2007

In a trial evaluating loose maggots versus contained (bagged) maggots, the time for most efficient consumption of necrotic tissue was determined to be 4 days, in contrast to usual protocol regarding dressing changes.Blake 2007 Mean time-to-debridement in prospective studies of pressure ulcers suggests applications of maggots required 10 days to 3 weeks, depending on wound size and extent of necrosis.Sherman 2002, Mumcuoglu 1999

Pregnancy / Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Myiasis, the infestation of tissue with fly larvae, is a recognized ICD-10 disease, but is distinct from the therapeutic application of larvae discussed in this monograph.Sherman 2005

Pain, commonly associated with the end stage of treatment when healthy tissue has been exposed, has been reported and managed with analgesia.Mumcuoglu 1999, Soares 2009 Pruritus and discomfort, as well as anxiety have also been reported in a minority of patients; however, the incidence of reported adverse events may be a reflection of the type of wound and depend upon the (self-selecting) patient.Sherman 2002, Teich 1986

Case reports of serious bleeding exist. Contraindications may include life- or limb-threatening conditions, deep-tracking wounds, lack of wound hemostasis, psychological issues, and hypersensitivity. With wounds, contraindications may only exist until the underlying pathology is addressed (ie, maggots have been successful in osteomyelitis and limb-threatening conditions).Claxton 2003, Sherman 2002, Stockley 1982, Steenvoorde 2008


Information regarding the toxicology of maggot exudate is limited.



This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

Abdel-Samad MRK. Antiviral and virucidal activities of Lucilia cuprina maggots' excretion/secretion (Diptera: Calliphoridae): first work. Heliyon. 2019;5(11):e02791.31844722
Bexfield A, Nigam Y, Thomas S, Ratcliffe NA. Detection and partial characterisation of two antibacterial factors from the excretions/secretions of the medicinal maggot Lucilia sericata and their activity against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Microbes Infect. 2004;6(14):1297-1304.15555536
Beyer JC, Enos WF, Stajic M. Drug identification through analysis of maggots. J Forensic Sci. 1980;25(2):411-412.7391801
Blake FA, Abromeit N, Bubenheim M, Li L, Schmelzle R. The biosurgical wound debridement: experimental investigation of efficiency and practicability. Wound Repair Regen. 2007;15(5):756-761.17971022
Cazander G, van Veen KE, Bernards AT, Jukema GN. Do maggots have an influence on bacterial growth? A study on the susceptibility of strains of six different bacterial species to maggots of Lucilia sericata and their excretions/secretions. J Tissue Viability. 2009;18(3):80-87.19362001
Claxton MJ, Armstrong DG, Short B, Vazquez JR, Boulton AJ. 5 questions—and answers—about maggot debridement therapy. Adv Skin Wound Care. 2003;16(2):99-102.12690234
Davies CE, Woolfrey G, Hogg N, et al. Maggots as a wound debridement agent for chronic venous leg ulcers under graduated compression bandages: A randomised controlled trial. Phlebology. 2015;30(10):693-9. PMID: 25300315.25300315
Dumville JC, Worthy G, Bland JM, et al; VenUS II team. Larval therapy for leg ulcers (VenUS II): randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2009;338:b773.19304577
Frykberg RG, Zgonis T, Armstrong DG, et al; American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. Diabetic foot disorders. A clinical practice guideline (2006 revision). J Foot Ankle Surg. 2006;45(suppl 5):S1-S66.17280936
Horobin AJ, Shakesheff KM, Pritchard DI. Maggots and wound healing: an investigation of the effects of secretions from Lucilia sericata larvae upon the migration of human dermal fibroblasts over a fibronectin-coated surface. Wound Repair Regen. 2005;13(4):422-433.16008732
Li Q, Lu R, Huo R, Fu H. Maggots of musca domestica in treatment of acute intractable wound. Surgery. 2009;145(1):122-123.19081485
Malekian A, Esmaeeli Djavid G, Akbarzadeh K, et al. Efficacy of maggot therapy on Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa in diabetic foot ulcers: A randomized controlled trial. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2019;46(1):25-29.30608337
McKeever DC. The classic: maggots in treatment of osteomyelitis: a simple inexpensive method. 1933. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2008;466(6):1329-1335.18404291
Mudge E, Price P, Walkley N, Harding KG. A randomized controlled trial of larval therapy for the debridement of leg ulcers: results of a multicenter, randomized, controlled, open, observer blind, parallel group study. Wound Repair Regen. 2014;22(1):43-51.24299513
Mumcuoglu KY, Ingber A, Gilead L, et al. Maggot therapy for the treatment of intractable wounds. Int J Dermatol. 1999;38(8):623-627.10487456
Opletalová K, Blaizot X, Mourgeon B, et al. Maggot therapy for wound debridement: a randomized multicenter trial. Arch Dermatol. 2012;148(4):432-438.22184720
Rahimi S, Khamesipour A, Akhavan AA, et al. The leishmanicidal effect of Lucilia sericata larval saliva and hemolymph on in vitro Leishmania tropica [published correction appears in Parasit Vectors. 2021;14(1):155]. Parasit Vectors. 2021;14(1):40.33430900
Rojo S, Geraghty S. Hemophilia and maggots: from hospital admission to healed wound. Ostomy Wound Manage. 2004;50(4):30, 32, 34.15259799
Sherman RA. Maggot versus conservative debridement therapy for the treatment of pressure ulcers. Wound Repair Regen. 2002;10(4):208-214.12191002
Sherman RA, Roselle G, Bills C, Danko LH, Eldridge N. Healthcare-associated myiasis: prevention and intervention. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2005;26(10):828-832.16276958
Sherman RA, Sherman J, Gilead L, Lipo M, Mumcuoglu KY. Maggot debridement therapy in outpatients. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2001;82(9):1226-1229.11552195
Sherman RA, Wyle FA. Low-cost, low-maintenance rearing of maggots in hospitals, clinics, and schools. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 1996;54(1):38-41.8651366
Sherman RA, Wyle FA, Thrupp L. Effects of seven antibiotics on the growth and development of Phaenicia sericata (Diptera: Calliphoridae) larvae. J Med Entomol. 1995;32(5):646-649.7473619
Soares MO, Iglesias CP, Bland JM, et al. Cost effectiveness analysis of larval therapy for leg ulcers. BMJ. 2009;338:b825.19304578
Steenvoorde P, Jacobi CE, Oskam J. Maggot debridement therapy: free-range or contained? An in-vivo study. Adv Skin Wound Care. 2005;18(8):430-435.16217155
Steenvoorde P, Jukema GN. The antimicrobial activity of maggots: in-vivo results. J Tissue Viability. 2004;14(3):97-101.15709356
Steenvoorde P, van Doorn LP. Maggot debridement therapy: serious bleeding can occur: report of a case. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2008;35(4):412-414.18635992
Steenvoorde P, van Doorn LP, Jacobi CE, Oskam J. Maggot debridement therapy in the palliative setting. Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2007;24(4):308-310.17895494
Stockley RA, Hill SL, Drew R. Asthma associated with a circulating IgG antibody to Calliphora maggots. Clin Allergy. 1982;12(2):151-155.7074819
Sun X, Chen J, Zhang J, et al. Maggot debridement therapy promotes diabetic foot wound healing by up-regulating endothelial cell activity. J Diabetes Complications. 2016;30(2):318-322.26782021
Teich S, Myers R. Maggot therapy for severe skin infections. South Med J. 1986:79(9):1153-1155.3750003
US Department of Health and Human Services. Food and Drug Administration. Medical maggots and maggot confinement dressings. October 5, 2007. Accessed September 2017.
van der Plas MJ, Jukema GN, Wai SW, et al. Maggot excretions/secretions are differentially effective against biofilms of Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2008;61(1):117-122.17965032
Wollina U, Kinscher M, Fengler H. Maggot therapy in the treatment of wounds of exposed knee prostheses. Int J Dermatol. 2005;44(10):884-846.16207200

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.