Insects are not normally thought of as clean, healthy, or hygienic. However, there are a surprisingly large number of medical uses for these tiny creatures.
Insects have been used medicinally for thousands of years by cultures all over the world.
Let’s look at three modern medical uses for insects.
Doctors are actively using immunotherapy to help patients allergic to bee stings and stings from other types of insects.
This treatment involves consistently exposing patients to minute amounts of purified venom. This is the same venom that can send a patient into anaphylactic shock when stung. However, doctors use an incredibly small amount. Eventually, the body learns to stop overreacting to the venom and this reduces the chances of an allergic reaction when accidentally stung.
The most important part of this treatment is consistency. Many patients have to receive regular shots of the venom for a few years at least. Some patients with very severe reactions, may find that their doctor recommends shots for the rest of their lives. Indeed, this seems like a hassle, but it can be life saving to someone who has severe venom allergies.
Maggot Debridement Therapy (MDT)
As disgusting, and medieval, as it might sound, maggots are actually quite useful for cleaning out wounds. However, they are not always used.
This is a very specialized use in wounds that are infected and will not heal. Maggot debridement therapy (MDT) is used primarily to help clean away the infected, necrotic tissue in a wound. If successful, only healthy, living tissue remains and the wound can heal properly. Evidence shows that maggot debridement therapy can help reduce the need for antibiotics, and even help with wounds infected by antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. However, new research indicates that it may be possible that using too many maggots or leaving the maggots on the wound for too long can result in the loss of some healthy tissue as well as necrotic tissue.
It is important for medical practitioners to pay close attention to the wound site during treatment.
The next time you go in to get a wart removed, the doctor may wind up using an oil produced by some beetles. The oil, Cantharidin, is secreted by certain species of beetle referred to as the blister beetles. Cantharidin is a defensive agent that causes blisters to erupt on the skin. In drug form this can cause severe chemical burns, but when properly compounded the oil can be used to safely remove warts and other benign skin lesions.
The science of Ethnoentomology is a field that is getting more and more interest these days as people look to nature to improve human medicine and health. Today we discussed just three of the treatments being used in hospitals and clinics today. There are lots of other potential therapies being looked at in research facilities around the globe. Expect to see more unusual treatments using insects in the future.
Mark is the Marketing Manager of Midland Pest Control, an extermination company in Texas.