Risks of Ingesting Maggots

Written by carmen laboy
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Risks of Ingesting Maggots
Maggots are baby flies. (mouche à damier image by guy from Fotolia.com)

"Maggot" is the name commonly given to the small, pale larva of flies. You can find them in many places: under water, in fecal matter, on food and in trash. The parent fly lays eggs on any tempting surface, where the larva hatches after 8 to 20 hours, and proceeds to eat. Although generally considered disgusting, though relatively harmless, maggots can cause some serious medical issues.

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Intestinal Myiasis

Intestinal myiasis is an infection where an animal ingests maggots in their egg stage of development. This disease occurs when a human or animal eats food containing the eggs of flies. A specific set of steps must occur for this disease to take shape: flies must lay eggs on food, which is then eaten by the host, the eggs can survive in stomach acid, until they reach the intestines, where they burrow into the organs causing internal damage. Myiasis can lead to bacterial infections, sepsis and ultimately death, if left untreated.

External Myiasis

Especially problematic in tropical regions, external myiasis occurs when larvae enter the body through the mouth, nose, rectum, vulva, ears or eyes. It also occurs when flies lay their eggs inside open wounds, or depending on the species of fly, burrow under the skin, to feed off healthy tissue, digested foods or bodily fluids, according to German entomologist, Fritz Zumpt. If left untreated, this invasion of tissue can lead to sepsis, anaemia and death.

Mind over Matter

Maggots, because of their tendency to grow on and eat rotting food and excrement, cause revulsion in most people. Some scientists have theorised that the disgust response is an evolved reaction to protect humans from eating things that may be dangerous to them. Because people usually protect fresh food from flies, maggots also tend to appear on food that is already contaminated or rotting. In fact, while you may throw up after eating a maggot, it is more likely you are throwing up, because of food poisoning, and not because you ingested maggots. In fact, a study done by the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy suggests that saliva secretions from maggots may have antimicrobial properties and have shown success, in a lab, at treating E-coli, MRSA and C. Difficle diseases.

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