Researchers in Britain are investigating the antibacterial secretions of maggots in the hope they could lead to the development of new antibiotics. Matthew Stock reports.
Maggots thrive on necrotic - dead - flesh. Throughout history, surgeons have used them help to clean wounds. But the minute secretions the maggots leave behind also have antibacterial properties. At Swansea University, researchers are working to isolate this in the hope it could lead to a viable new antibiotic. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR YAMNI NIGAM, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR AT SWANSEA UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "We knew, anecdotally, that maggots were working to kill bacterial infections in wounds. So we decided to start there, and we decided to look at the excretions and the secretions of maggots; we collected those and we examined them for various activities including antibacterial to try and see which species of bacteria they could kill. And to our surprise we found that we had excellent antibacterial activity in certain fractions, in certain samples of maggot secretions." Using sterile, medical grade larva of the common green bottle fly, secretions are collected by placing them in water overnight. After filtering out the maggots, the leftover liquid contains water together with the molecule the scientists are after. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR YAMNI NIGAM, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR AT SWANSEA UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "It's quite a small molecule. And our current aim is to extract the secretion and to try and isolate the molecule and identify exactly what it's made up of... And then, once we know the structure we are planning to synthesise artificially and then test it against known species of even resistant bacteria that we know actual maggot secretions are killing." Swansea University has trademarked this molecule, calling it Seraticin. It's soon embarking on a major collaboration with a leading British university to speed up the synthesis of this maggot-derived molecule.. ... in the hope that it could one day help in the battle against antibiotic resistance.