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Maggots may become the micro-surgeons of the battlefield

Photo: Grant gives go-ahead for maggot project
A Queensland university project will test the possibility of using maggots to clean wounds in conflict and disaster zones.

Maggots may become the micro-surgeons of the battlefield if a Queensland idea proves itself.

A Griffith University project has been awarded a $250,000 grant towards its plan to produce and use maggots for medical purposes in conflict areas and other compromised healthcare settings.

The project will use the funding to build and test a lab from a shipping container for large volume maggot production and smaller "do-it-yourself" production setups, which can be built and operated on site by affected communities.

The lab and the DIY setups would then be tested in the field after their construction.

Project leader Frank Stadler says wound-cleaning abilities of maggots is ideal for conflict and disaster scenarios where more advanced healthcare isn't immediately accessible.
"Modern conflict and disaster medicine relies on rapid evacuation of the injured to highly resourced hospitals with surgical and advanced wound care, which is impossible in hard-to-reach areas and isolated field hospitals," Mr Stadler said in a statement.

"These communities need local wound care options that are affordable, accessible, efficacious and easy to use."

The project was one of 23 selected from 615 international submissions to the Humanitarian Grand Challenge Canada.

The brief for the funding was entitled Creating Hope in Conflict, which Mr Stadler says is the ultimate aim of the maggot project.

"Our mission is to save lives and limbs, and bring hope to the wounded and their families," he said.

Maggot therapy using fly larvae to remove dead tissue and control infection has been practised by cultures all over the world and was even used on the wounds of soldiers in World War One.

The treatment is not mainstream medical practice in Australia, but Mr Stadler said if the project is successful it would offer a treatment that even a layperson could effectively administer.

"We felt confident that we can make a real contribution to life- and limb-saving wound care in conflict," he said.

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