15 Oct 2013

Maggots used to fight pancreatitis among Maori

7:35 pm on 15 October 2013

A trainee surgeon is using maggots to develop new ways to treat acute pancreatitis, which is prevalent among Maori women.

Dr Lisa Brown wants to help patients who have an inflammation of their pancreas, which is part of the digestive system. She developed an interest after seeing people suffering in hospital for up to a year when she was a junior doctor in Christchurch.

Dr Brown says substances are taken from maggots in the laboratory, and that liquid is then capable of breaking down solid pancreatic tissue.

Maggots hold healing properties, and one in particular has a remarkable ability to degrade dead tissue but spare healthy tissue, she says. Historically, maggots have been used to help heal skin wounds during wartime.

Maori women have one of the highest rates of acute pancreatitis in the world and Dr Brown says while it's not known why, associations include gallstones, alcohol and smoking.