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This word has two rather different meanings in modern medicine.

One refers to the use of living organisms, in particular fly larvae, to clean and disinfect wounds. If you pick the right sort (greenbottle larvae are best), they eat the dead and decaying flesh but leave the healthy stuff alone. They can even help new tissue grow, perhaps by introducing natural antibiotics into the wound. The technique is ancient, but has been rediscovered in recent times, and is proving very helpful in cases where the injured person is infected with bugs resistant to antibiotics. Surgeons invented biosurgery for it to soften its mental shudder factor. Other names are larval therapy and maggot therapy (sometimes abbreviated to MT). The term first begins to appear widely in this sense in the middle 1990s, though it is recorded at least as far back as 1969.

A second sense has grown up in parallel with it to mean surgical techniques that employ a range of natural or manmade materials. Biomaterials are biologically compatible glues to seal surgical incisions, lubricants to help joint movement, and support on which living tissue is grown or shaped, but the term also covers biocompatible materials such as hip replacements and artificial pacemakers. It also includes biotherapeutic techniques such as gene and cellular therapies. This sense is widespread in the medical literature but rarely reaches general publications except as part of the name of companies active in the field.

Despite its effectiveness, maggot therapy — or biosurgery to the squeamish — must overcome the “yuck factor” with physicians to gain widespread acceptance. “In my experience, patients are very trusting. The ‘yuck factor’ is with practitioners,” Ms. Jones said.

Internal Medicine News, 1 Feb. 2005

In addition to these two major segments which are the largest within the space, we also are seeing a nice fast-growing business within our biosurgery business. Today it is about a $300 million business primarily focused in wound healing and tissue sealing applications of various biosurgical products.

Fair Disclosure Wire, 10 Jan. 2007

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Page created 10 Jul 1999; Last updated 12 May 2007