The impacts of larval density and protease inhibition on feeding in medicinal larvae of the greenbottle fly Lucilia sericata

Med Vet Entomol. 2016 Mar;30(1):1-7. doi: 10.1111/mve.12138. Epub 2015 Oct 14.


Larval therapy, the therapeutic use of blowfly larvae to treat chronic wounds, is primarily used in debridement. There are, however, gaps in current knowledge of the optimal clinical application of the therapy and mechanisms of action in the debridement process. Using an artificial assay, two studies were undertaken to investigate these aspects of larval debridement by Lucilia sericata Meigen (Diptera: Calliphoridae); the first studied the effects of the density of larvae on tissue digestion and larval mass, and the second considered the effects on the same parameters of incorporating protease inhibitors into the feeding substrate. The total mass of tissue digested increased with larval density until saturation was observed at 5.0-7.5 larvae/cm(2) . This range was considered optimal as lower doses resulted in the removal of less tissue and higher doses offered no additional tissue removal and appeared to exacerbate competition for feeding. In the second study, increased protease inhibitor concentration led to significant decreases in tissue digestion and larval mass, suggesting that serine proteases, particularly trypsin, may play major roles in larval digestion. Such information is important in elucidating the main constituents that make up larval digestive products and may be significant in the development of new therapies.

Keywords: Lucilia sericata; blowfly; debridement; dosage; larval therapy; maggot therapy; serine protease; trypsin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Debridement / methods*
  • Diptera / drug effects*
  • Diptera / enzymology
  • Diptera / growth & development
  • Diptera / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / drug effects
  • Insect Proteins / genetics*
  • Insect Proteins / metabolism
  • Larva / drug effects
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Larva / physiology
  • Population Density
  • Protease Inhibitors / pharmacology*


  • Insect Proteins
  • Protease Inhibitors