When I was working at the Medical Museion as a docent, I often introduced visitors to our fabulous pharmacy. Here the visitors are introduced to such interesting objects as a jar containing moss from a human skull and a container for leeches. Leeches were used to draw blood from patients to restore their blood balance. The theoretical basis for this procedure was of course humoral pathology.

The use of animals is not something that is restricted to pharmacies in medical museums like ours. Animals are also used in biomedicine today. I’ll get back to that.  

One of the advantages of being a museum docent is that one gets an opportunity to see the facial expression of visitors when they listen to stories like the one about the leeches. It’s interesting but hard to describe. It’s like if they had just chewed on a piece of lemon — actually a quite common emotional reaction.

The reason why I came to think about this is because a year or so ago one of our visitors claimed that maggots are being used today to clean infected wounds, a procedure I realised is known as biosurgery. Googling ‘biosurgery’ I found out that it stands for a variety of different procedures, but one is actually the medical procedure of cleaning wounds. As usual one can find a YouTube video of the procedure being executed. Take a look here:


I’m quite sure my own facial expression was the exactly same as our visitor expressed when I told them about the use of leeches  🙂

While searching for more info on biosurgery I also stumbled upon this article where I found this great quote:

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

The ‘yuck factor’ seems to be an accurate description, which I guess can also be applied to other biomedical procedures.

One thing that I was unable to discover was how often maggot therapy/biosurgery as a technique is used around the world. Does anybody know?

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