New Research Benefits Wound-treating Maggots

Scientists have identified a new way to kill the bacterium P. aeruginosa, a bacteria that inhibits the process of maggot dibridement therapy.

Though Maggot Dibridement Therapy (MDT) is commonly used for the removal of bacteria from wounds, the opportunistic bacterium P. aeruginosa has proved toxic to the maggots. New research from scientists at the Copenhagen Wound Healing Centre, Statens Serum Institut, and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark has identified a way to kill P. aeruginosa, which could greatly improve the ability of MDT to clean wounds.

P. aeruginosa often causes hospital-acquired infections, according to the researchers, and can result in wounds, but the MDT that is often used to clean those wounds was not successful because of the bacterium’s virulence. The bacterium’s communication system, quorum sensing (QS), allows the biofilms that are built up by the bacterium to avoid destruction by the immune system and antibiotics. Lead researcher Anders Schou Andersen, MD, and his team discovered that QS was also a key part of the bacterium’s toxic effect on maggots.

“When we blocked the QS signaling pathways in the bacteria, the maggots were much better at surviving and potentially cleansing the wounds,” Andersen said. “Signaling between bacteria growing in biofilms is known to lead to the production of lethal toxins, without which the bacteria are more vulnerable to eradication.”

According to Anderson, this discovery could be of great benefit to patients who are suffering from persistent wounds.

“MDT is generally very effective. It has been said that in a few cases MDT had failed, leaving the maggots dead in the lesion. We now think that this was probably due to the presence of P. aeruginosa in the wound,” he said. “If we can find the specific bacterial mechanism that kills the maggots, we could target this when developing new treatments. For example, wounds infected with P. aeruginosa could be treated with an agent that interrupts bacterial signaling to ensure the success of maggot therapy and thereby wound healing.”

The study was also published in Microbiology.