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Insects and Medicine

Give thanks to those pesky insects. Some of them, at least, have played a leading role in the development of medicines.

Probably the most interesting example of using insects in medicine involves the larvae of the blow fly. Military surgeons noticed in World War II that wounds, untreated for several days and infested with maggots, healed better than wounds not infested with the blow fly larvae.

Later they discovered that the larvae (maggots) secreted an excretion called "allontoin," which had a curative effect. Allontoin now is used to treat osteomyelitis, an infectious inflammatory disease.

In other examples, bee venom has been used to treat arthritis and an extract from blister beetles has been used to treat problems of the urogenital system.

Photo: Judy Sedbrook

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010