With support from the Humanitarian Grand Challenge, maggot therapy supply chain solutions developed by MedMagLabs will help those living in conflict-affected communities and other humanitarian crises.
Toronto, October 4, 2021 – Maggot therapy could provide a simple and effective way to treat wounds in the world’s most desperate humanitarian crises, such as Syria and South Sudan. The potential for maggot therapy to improve wound care extends beyond conflict and war to any place where healthcare systems are broken or a sudden influx of casualties overwhelm the capacity of emergency services. The recent earthquake in Haiti is a good example. Maggot therapy is the treatment of wounds with disinfected living fly larvae to remove dead tissue, control infection, and promote wound healing.
In war and conflict, destroyed infrastructure and insecurity hamper the delivery of essential medical treatments. As a result, civilians are often left without the essential healthcare needed to treat wounds and disease. A shortage of surgical staff, doctors, nurses, and a lack of effective antibiotics often result in chronic wound infection and necrosis, which in turn leads to many amputations or even loss of life.
To respond to the acute shortage and limited access of healthcare providers for wound treatment, MedMagLabs has pioneered a Do-It-Yourself laboratory (DIY-Lab) for medicinal maggot production and affordable efficacious wound care in under-resourced settings and conflict zones. The DIY-Lab Production Manual provides all instructions required for isolated communities to build and operate basic and safe production laboratories for a steady supply of medicinal maggots. This user-friendly Production Manual also includes a set of twenty illustrated User Manuals that describe step-by-step the process of medicinal maggot production – both are available for free and in multiple languages via www.medmaglabs.com. With a DIY-Lab in place, conflict-affected and other isolated communities will no longer be dependent on fragile medical supply chains but are empowered to produce their own wound care supplies at the point of care.
The project, supported by Creating Hope in Conflict: a Humanitarian Grand Challenge, developed maggot therapy supply solutions for isolated hard-to-reach communities. “We’ve delivered the necessary supply chain innovations to ensure the production of high-quality medicinal maggots, at the point-of-care, no matter where that might be,” says Dr. Frank Stadler, team leader at MedMagLabs. “Too many patients in conflict and other low-resource settings lose their limbs and lives because of wounds that could easily be treated with proper access to care. What we have done is to translate evidence-based best-practice medicinal maggot production methods into a set of instructions that can be implemented in the most austere healthcare settings.” Key innovation here is the point-of-care production of medicinal maggots by affected communities themselves. “We remove the distribution step from the supply chain and use local resources for the production of medicinal maggots” says Dr Stadler.
Maggot therapy is an ancient form of treatment that was adopted by modern medicine after World War 1 and was widely used in the 1930’s and early 1940’s until modern antibiotics became available. In recent decades maggot therapy has made a comeback, because of the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections and the growing burden of chronic wounds. It is the only low-tech wound care modality that removes dead tissue, controls infection, and promotes wound healing all at once. Maggot therapy is affordable to patients in conflict zones and can provide limb-and-life saving care in times of conflict, disaster and in poverty where there are few healthcare workers and insufficient wound care supplies.
In Syria, the decade-long conflict and humanitarian crisis has destroyed homes, hospitals and healthcare settings, leaving millions to live in precarious conditions – including victims of trauma from blasts, shelling, or building collapse. A decade of attacks on hospitals and facilities has crippled the country’s healthcare system, leaving many civilians with large open wounds, unable to receive the medical treatment they need. There, MedMagLabs’ maggot therapy can fill the gap in patient care.
Up to now, maggot therapy has not been used for the treatment of wounds in conflict and other compromised healthcare settings such as disasters. Dr Stadler points out that “the main reason for this is, on one hand, the difficulty to deliver highly perishable medicinal maggots to the point of care and, on the other, the reluctance of healthcare providers to accept maggot therapy as a highly efficacious wound treatment.” MedMagLabs addressed the need for healthcare worker and patient education with a free Treatment Manual. “Our richly illustrated Treatment Manual fact-sheets introduce health practitioners to maggot therapy, provide patient sensitization resources, and explain when and how maggot therapy is best performed.” Two treatment videos describing step-by-step the application and removal of maggot therapy dressings can also be viewed for free at www.medmaglabs.com.
All in all, MedMagLabs has developed a set of self-help resources that have the potential to change the lives of thousands of patients with chronic wounds left without hope. “There is an old adage saying “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” MedMagLabs believes that this also holds true for wound care,” says Dr Stadler. “We teach communities to grow their own medicinal maggots so they become self-sufficient and can treat their loved once with local resources.” MedMagLabs’ innovative solution allows for wound care for everyone, everywhere.
About Creating Hope in Conflict: a Humanitarian Grand Challenge
Creating Hope in Conflict: A Humanitarian Grand Challenge is a partnership of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.K Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, and Global Affairs Canada, with support from Grand Challenges Canada. Partners have contributed USD$32.5 million for the Humanitarian Grand Challenge, which was launched in 2018 to enable local organizations, humanitarian agencies, and the private sector to work alongside affected communities to respond more nimbly to complex emergencies, address the unprecedented magnitude of suffering around the world, and empower people to create better lives for themselves.
MedMagLabs (Medicinal Maggot Laboratories) was founded in 2019 as a research lab, hosted by the School of Medicine and Dentistry at Griffith University. The start-up develops maggot therapy supply chain solutions and supports the clinical integration of maggot therapy in compromised healthcare settings. MedMagLabs aims to deliver limb- and life-saving maggot-assisted wound care to anyone in need, anywhere. Their work is funded by Creating Hope in Conflict: A Humanitarian Grand Challenge and focused on the delivery of solutions for the production of medicinal maggots and maggot therapy in conflict-affected communities.
MedMagLabs is currently transitioning into a new independent phase becoming an impact-driven for purpose social enterprise.
For more information, please contact:
Zeba Tasci, Associate Communications Officer,
Humanitarian Grand Challenge