Swansea University maggots appear on Casualty

The plot of last Saturday’s episode of Casualty was developed with assistance from Professor Yamni Nigam, who heads the research team behind the Love a Maggot campaign.

Swansea University reports she has been working with the production team of the BBC hospital drama for more than six months, advising them on medicinal maggots.

In the episode Dr Dylan Keogh becomes intrigued after maggots appear to keep a homeless man’s wound clean without antibiotics.

Maggots have been used to clean wounds for centuries but the practice fell out of favour following the discovery of antibiotics in the forties. However, with the spread of antimicrobial resistance standard treatments for some infections are becoming ineffective, which is becoming a global health challenge.

Yamni Nigam, from Swansea University’s College of Human and Health Sciences, said “Since 2016 we’ve been working to raise awareness of how effectively maggots can help infected wounds – we are gradually spreading the word through our outreach events but to get our message included in such a flagship programme is just fantastic.”

She became involved in Casualty thanks to her colleague, senior lecturer Tom Hewes, who is a paramedic advisor to the programme. In August 2018 she was invited to talk to the programme’s research and writing team and explain how medicinal maggots, which appear to be immune to antimicrobial resistance, can rid wounds of dead tissue and different species of bacteria in a matter of days.

Medicinal maggots are available on prescription from the NHS and can be used on a variety of wounds, from diabetic foot ulcers to burn wounds. As well as eating away at the dead tissue, the Swansea University team has discovered key molecules in maggot secretions which kill bacteria and aid healing.

Yamni Nigam admits many people, often adults, don’t want to have living creatures near their wound. She said “There is definitely a ‘yuck factor’ associated with maggots – but once a person gets over that and has access to information on what a medicinal maggot can do, they generally change their attitude. Despite being a bacteria-busting powerhouse, maggot therapy isn’t well known or popular in the UK or indeed elsewhere. Let’s hope Casualty can help us change that!”

The episode is available on BBC iPlayer.

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