Maggots are being used to help successfully treat MRSA patients in record time, according to a new study by the University of Manchester.

Researchers used green bottle fly larvae to treat 13 diabetics whose foot ulcers were contaminated with MRSA.

They found that all but one were cured within a mean period of three weeks, instead of the usual 28 weeks for conventional treatment.

The university has now been awarded a £98,000 grant to carry out more tests.

Dead tissue

Professor Andrew Boulton, who published the results in the journal Diabetes Care, will now carry out a randomized controlled trial - thanks to the grant from Diabetes UK - to compare this treatment with two others.

Maggots have been used since the Napoleonic Wars, - they eat the dead tissue and bacteria, leaving the healthy tissue to heal.

The University of Manchester study involved 13 patients who had chronic foot ulcers that had suffered loss of feeling and reduced blood supply.

The group, aged between 18 and 80, had sterile free-range larvae applied between two and eight times - depending on the size of the ulcer - for four days at a time.

All but one of the patients was cleared of the superbug.

'Very exciting'

"This is very exciting," said Professor Boulton.

"We have demonstrated for the first time the potential of larval therapy to eliminate MRSA infection of diabetic foot ulcers.

"If confirmed in a randomized controlled trial, larval treatment would offer the first non-invasive and risk-free treatment of this increasing problem and a safe and cost-effective treatment in contrast to the expensive and potentially toxic antibiotic remedies.

"We were very surprised to see such a good result for MRSA.

"There is no reason this cannot be applied to many other areas of the body, except perhaps a large abdominal wound."

Professor Boulton and his team have used maggots to treat diabetic foot ulcers of patients attending the Manchester Diabetes Centre and foot clinics, as well as in in-patients at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, for a decade.