Antibacterial properties of whole body extracts and haemolymph of Lucilia sericata maggots

J Wound Care. 2007 Mar;16(3):123-7. doi: 10.12968/jowc.2007.16.3.27011.


Objective: To partially characterise maggot-secreted antibacterial substances and determine their range of activity against different bacteria.

Method: Sterile and non-sterile maggots maintained in the laboratory and taken from chronic wounds of treated patients were used. Whole body extracts and haemolymph were fractionated and their range of activity against bacteria was tested using the zone of inhibition assay. The mode of action of bacterial destruction was examined by viable counts, influx of K+ and changes in the membrane potential by scanning electron microscope (SEM).

Results: Extracts of sterile and non-sterile maggots showed an activity of 200 arbitrary units (AU)/ml and 400AU/ml respectively. Maggots removed from chronic wounds had an activity of 1200AU/ml. Injuring sterile maggots with a sterile needle doubled the antibacterial activity within 24 hours, while the antibacterial activity of haemolymph increased fourfold after injury with a sterile needle and sixteenfold with an infected needle. The fractions with a molecular weight of < 1kDa and 3-10kDa showed antibacterial activity against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Klebsiella pneumoniae and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) isolated from wounds. The fraction with a molecular weight of < 1kDa lysed over 90% of the bacteria within 15 minutes by causing an influx of K+ and changing the membrane potential of bacteria.

Conclusion: The nature of the antibacterial materials extracted from maggots not only indicates their ability to ingest the necrotic tissue on the wound, but also their potential significance in wound healing,

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents* / isolation & purification
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents* / pharmacology
  • Body Fluids / chemistry*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Chronic Disease
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Diptera / chemistry
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / growth & development
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / ultrastructure
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / growth & development
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / ultrastructure
  • Hemolymph / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Larva / chemistry*
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Molecular Weight
  • Nephelometry and Turbidimetry
  • Solid Phase Extraction
  • Wound Infection / microbiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents